Nail biting is a bad habit that usually begins in childhood and can continue into adulthood. Side effects can go beyond aesthetics. Are you one of these people and don’t know how to stop? We offer you some very effective tricks.
The habit of nail biting
Nail biting, or onychophagy, is usually an unconscious habit. Often, we discover it when we perceive its consequences: short nails, damage to the tissue that promotes nail growth, etc. Chronic nail biting is estimated to affect between 20% and 30% of the general population.
This habit generally begins in childhood, around age 4, and for many people, it is a custom that will continue into adulthood. Onychophagy is generally considered to be just a bad habit, although it can sometimes lead to psychosocial problems and have a negative impact on the quality of life.
Risks of nail biting
Some of the risks of nail biting are:
- Pain or infection in the skin around the nails.
- Damage to the tissue that makes the nails grow.
- Change in the appearance of the nails.
- Abnormal growth
- Tooth damage.
Nail biting does not, in most cases, cause any long-term damage. However, it is not hygienic and can cause diseases and infections of nails or skin. Although it should also be borne in mind that the symptoms are not only physical but also psychological.
In this case, the following may appear:
- Anguish and restlessness.
- Feelings of shame and guilt related to the appearance of physical damage to the skin.
- In some cases, it can lead to social problems.
Tips to stop nail biting
Treatment to avoid nail biting varies according to severity. Some people respond well to measures like:
- Keep nails short: There is less temptation to bite short nails than long ones. Similarly, getting regular manicures and keeping your nails in top shape could be another deterrent.
- Apply bitter-tasting nail polish: This formula offers an unpleasant taste that discourages many people from biting their nails.
- Try to replace this bad habit with a healthier one: when you are tempted to bite your nails, look for an alternative such as a stress ball. This will help keep your hands busy and away from your teeth. It is important not only to focus on the hands but also on the mouth. You can use chewing gum or licorice to have something in your mouth and eliminate the need to bite your nails.
- Identify the reasons: Some triggers can be psychological, such as boredom, stress, or anxiety. Discovering what makes you bite your nails can help you avoid situations that provoke it and develop a plan.
Sometimes these tips do not help to end this bad habit. When this happens, you may have to find a specialist and tackle the problem from a multidisciplinary point of view, involving not only dermatologists but also psychologists.
According to a study published in the Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences (IJMS), nail biting is sometimes not an isolated symptom, but may come from a group of symptoms that need to be evaluated and treated.
Remember that, until you have completely eliminated the habit of biting your nails, it is recommended that you wash your hands frequently, giving special importance to the dirt that can accumulate under the nails.