There is often a belief that nail-biting is merely associated with the nerves of the moment or simply a bad habit. However, this terrible habit may be due to deeper psychological reasons and is often an indicator of some trauma that occurred during childhood.
Nail-biting, also known as onychophagy , has quite serious health repercussions, and is not just an aesthetic problem. The fingers and nails are home to a host of microorganisms, some of them pathogenic, which in contact with the mouth can produce an infection. Moreover, by biting your nails we can damage them irreparably as well as harming our teeth and gums.
But don’t panic, with a bit of will and skill and with the ten tips explained below you will be able to show off perfect and healthy nails again .
Why do we bite our nails?
The nails are basically composed of dead cells coated with keratin and are essential for many functions in humans. We even use them to play musical instruments, but obviously they have much more everyday uses and are necessary for our daily life .
Causes of Onytophagia
Some experts in the field propose that nail-biting may originate during early childhood, with babies and young children having a habit of putting their fingers in their mouths. Nail biting is not considered a disease but a psychological pathology, which, if it becomes an irrepressible and compulsive habit, should be treated medically.
The causes of onychophagy can be divided into two groups:
1. External causes
One of the recurring explanations for onychophagy is anxiety and stress produced by personal, work, economic, sentimental or marital problems, nervousness about exams… These factors are usually more benevolent, since with willpower and awareness of the problem, it is relatively easy to abandon the habit and control it.
2. Internal causes
These are emotional imbalances and alterations of the nervous system produced by trauma. They can be family imbalances, mistreatment, humiliation, low self-esteem, feelings of guilt and the need for self-punishment. The habit is prolonged over time and becomes chronic, sometimes the behaviour is so acute that it can lead to self-aggressive behaviour .
There is a widespread belief that nail-biting is a minor problem, since nails grow back after a short time anyway. But beware, onyxophagy can be worse than commonly thought and produce permanent damage .
Consequences and effects of nail biting
The hands provide us with a multitude of information about the person, are a reflection of health and self-confidence .
Well-groomed hands make a good impression on others. In other words, nail biting has health, emotional-psychological, aesthetic and social connotations.
1. Health and aesthetic consequences
The nails contain huge amounts of germs of all kinds. These, when they come into contact with the mouth, can penetrate our body and produce some kind of disease .
Injuries to the fingers and fingertips can lead to bacterial or viral infections. In addition, the fingers can become deformed and there is a risk of losing the nail permanently .Other consequences include chronic inflammation of the fingers and the development of cavities due to damage to the tooth enamel.
2. Emotional consequences
Another kind of negative effect of nail-biting is the complex and shame (which ultimately causes anxiety) about the appearance of the hands and which can interfere with interpersonal relationships.
This point is also related to a low level of self-esteem, feelings of sadness, and inability to control compulsive behaviors.
3. Social consequences
The nail-biter may believe that he or she is rejected by society.Also may present certain d ifficulties in personal and sentimental relationships .
Work problems: rejection in job interviews for hygiene or aesthetic reasons depending on the position.
The ten tips you should know not to bite your nails
As you can see, quitting this unhealthy habit can have countless benefits for your health, as well as on a psychological, emotional and social level .
Below I will explain ten great tips for you not to bite your nails . They are very easy tricks that do not require special products, you just have to want it and put will.
1. Be aware of the problem
The first thing you have to do is detect which are the situations that produce stress or insecurity and that activate the habit of biting , touching or scratching your nails and that leads directly to put them in your mouth.
This is identifying the particular moments that lead to this behavior, for example, when having to interact socially or prepare for an academic test, the moments before a job interview… Similarly, you must identify which activity or group of activities avoid this behavior and keep your hands busy, they have to be things that you enjoy, for example, sports, crafts, playing a musical instrument, writing … In this way you will mitigate anxiety and avoid compulsive nail-biting behavior.
2. Chew liquorice
Keeping your mouth busy chewing liquorice root is a good measure to fight the habit of biting your nails . Do this especially at times that make you anxious. Always carry this remedy with you. Once you have kicked the bad habit of onyxophagy, you can rest and leave the licorice at home.
3. Chewing gum
Similarly, it is very effective to chew gum every time you feel the need to put your fingers in your mouth . This way you will avoid biting your nails while refreshing your breath and exercising your jaw muscles to avoid wrinkles.
4.Use Aloe Vera
There are specific bitter products to avoid this habit, however why would you spend money when you can have what you need at home?
Aloe Vera has countless health properties , but it certainly does not taste very good. Cut a stalk of Aloe Vera in half, you will see that it has a transparent content similar to snail slime, leave it in the refrigerator one night and you will see that this slime has taken on a color like red due to oxidation, which produces its bitterness. Then, apply it to your nails until it dries. Every time you put your nails in your mouth you will get a very bitter and unpleasant taste that will surely make you want to do it again. In addition, Aloe Vera has antibacterial and healing properties, so it is ideal to avoid infections due to nail-biting wounds and to accelerate the nail regeneration process.
With this self-control exercise you will manage to master the urge to eat your nails:
- Bring one finger towards your mouth, stop when it is five centimetres from your lips. Move it away .Repeat this action several times, decreasing the distance each time.
- Insert the nail between the teeth without biting, hold it for a while, pull it out . Repeat this gesture, increasing the time.Practice this exercise for 5 minutes a day and you will see that it works.
Perhaps this is the most expensive solution of all but it is worth it, it is about covering your nails with other synthetics such as acrylics . It will prevent you from damaging your own nails while allowing them to grow.
Put some strips on your nails for a month, replacing them from time to time . This is so that you can admire how they grow healthy and shiny after a while, without biting them.
8.Practice a hobby
Keeping yourself busy with a hobby or hobby that you enjoy will keep your nails away from your teeth longer.
Any activity you are interested in is appropriate, it is very important that it is to your liking as this will dissipate your desire to put your nails in your mouth . Crafts are highly recommended because they keep your hands busy, especially if you are working with materials such as clay to make ceramics, as it keeps your hands dirty, and painting is also interesting.
If you find the gloves suit you, use them, especially in winter . It is a sure way to avoid biting your nails.
10.Congratulate yourself on your progress
Don’t hesitate to celebrate your progress as you go along. You will see that the people around you will notice and congratulate you , this will encourage you to continue to keep your nails healthy and beautiful.
By way of conclusion…
With willpower and the tips you’ve learned, you’re sure to have perfect nails soon. If you find that you have a lot of problems quitting the habit, you can go to a trusted psychologist.
- Baeza, J.C. Balaguer, G. and others (2008). Hygiene and prevention of anxiety . Madrid. Editorial Díaz de Santos.
- Burns, D. (2011).Feeling good. A therapy against depression . Paidós editorial
- Fioenza, A. (2007). 99 strategies to overcome fear, anxiety and phobias. Barcelona. RBA Editores.