You get anxious and bite your nails. Or maybe you’re bored and your hand finds its way to your mouth. Does this sound familiar to you?
There are many reasons why people bite their nails. It’s relatively common, though not the healthiest habit to keep. So why does it happen and is there a way to stop it?
The good news is that, with time and patience, you can stop this habit. In this article, you will find out how to stop biting nails and identify the reasons why you do it in the first place.
What Is Onychophagia?
If you bite your nails constantly, you probably have chronic onychophagia. That’s just another name for this common stress-relieving habit. Typically, it starts between the ages of 4 and 6 of age. Although it seems to stabilize between ages 7 and 10, it increases around the teenage years.
So you may have started the habit when you were young. Before you knew it, it probably followed you into adulthood. Some other habits associated with this condition may include:
- tooth grinding
- skin picking
- thumb sucking
- hair twisting
Nail biting may be embarrassing and unsanitary, but it could also be dangerous. These are some of the risks you may run into if you’re a nail biter:
- abnormal growth
- the skin around the nail gets sore or infected
- changes to the appearance of the nail
- damage to the tissue that causes nail growth
- teeth damage
- frequent colds and other illnesses from putting your hands in your mouth
Furthermore, nail-biting may be a sign of mental or emotional stress, but that is not the case all the time. Some people simply bite their nails when they feel hungry, bored, or insecure.
Regardless of why you do it, it’s important to understand that nail biting is a coping mechanism and that most people do it without thinking.
How to Stop Biting Nails: 8 Tips You Need to Try
Can you stop biting your nails immediately? Probably not. This may be a process, so it’s important that you keep at it and combine two or more methods if only one isn’t working for you.
So if you’re ready, try these tips to stop biting your nails:
1. Cut Those Nails
One of the easiest ways to avoid chewing your nails is to keep them short. If you take away the nails, you may not feel compelled to bite them. However, this method requires that you keep on top of trimming them down.
2. Put a Little Flavor on It
Why would you season your nails? Well, this is not that kind of flavor. If you use a bitter-flavored polish, it may help you to stop putting your nails in your mouth. These polishes are available over the counter, so you don’t need to see a doctor to get a hold of them.
3. Get Your Nails Done
If you hate wasting money, getting regular manicures may help you stop biting nails. After all, why would you want to throw away all that money?
4. Keep Your Focus on One Finger at a Time
Is it too overwhelming to stop chewing cold turkey? The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you try a gradual approach instead. Start with one finger and focus on not biting that nail. Give yourself a week and then move on to the next nail. In no time, you’ll have stopped biting all your nails completely.
5. Identify Your Triggers
It’s not uncommon to have triggers that may send your fingers to your mouth. Identifying your triggers may help.
It may be physical triggers like seeing calluses or hangnails that get you biting your nails. You may have other triggers like boredom, anxiety, or stress. Knowing your triggers can help you avoid triggering situations and create a plan should one of your triggers occur.
6. Try Some Chewelry
Did you know that there’s special jewelry designed for nail biters? That’s right. One innovative company has a necklace called Saber Tooth which is intended for anyone who feels the need to chew things.
This necklace won’t stop your chewing habit, but it may transfer your oral chewing compulsion to another item.
7. Replace the Bad Habit with a Good One
This one may only work if you’re aware that you bite your nails and know what your triggers are. This is another simple premise – whenever you feel like you need to bite your nails, do something else. Try an activity that keeps your hands busy like squeezing a stress ball or playing with silly putty.
Additional habits to replace nail biting may also include:
- putting your hands in your pocket
- eating a carrot or other healthy snack
- chewing gum
- clapping your hands together
- filing or clipping your nails
- twiddling your thumbs
8. Keep Trying
Lastly, you won’t break this habit overnight. So even if you go through rough days, it’s important to keep at it. It takes time to instill good habits and break the bad ones.
Can a Doctor Help?
It’s important to try all these tips first. However, if you find that none of them help, it may be time to seek professional help. For some people, nail biting is a sign of serious emotional or psychological problems. Addressing these deeper issues may also help you stop biting your nails.
In addition, you may also seek help in the form of behavior therapy. If this sounds like something you’d like to pursue, let your doctor know about the nail biting and ask for a referral to a therapist.
Nail biting may be a common habit, but that doesn’t mean it’s one you have to live with. Continued biting may eventually lead to health issues, which is why you should take steps to stop it.
If you’re wondering how to stop biting nails, you should know that there are many different methods. As such, you may have to try a few until you find one that works for you. You can also try multiple methods at the same time to increase your chances of quitting this habit.