Nail-biting is one of the most common offensive habits in the world, with 20-30% of the population suffering from it regularly. However, despite the difficulty involved in breaking this habit, it is certainly possible to do so without buying various aids or causing self-suffering with bitter or spicy flavors on the nails. If you bite your nails or know people who do, here are 6 effective tips from specialists which can help you get rid of this awful habit once and for all.
Before you quit nail-biting, it is recommended that you try to identify what causes you to bite your nails in the first place. According to Dr. Paul Depompo, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Institute in Southern California, the most common motivations or triggers are thoughts about problems, ignoring feelings of anger or other issues that affect emotions, or just absentminded biting.
The trick is to identify the causes of the undesirable behavior and act to prevent them from occurring. "You can try simple things like wearing gloves, chewing gum or applying bitter nail polish on your nails, but until you tackle the root of the problem, you’ll never be able to kick the habit once and for all," says Kathryn Smerling, a New York-based therapist.
Research shows that help from friends can increase one’s chances of success by 95% when it comes to trying to achieve personal goals, such as weight loss, and this is also true of quitting something. Ask a friend or family member to let you know when you’re biting, and you can go even further and enlist the help of a friend who wants to stop biting as well.
Once you think about what is hiding under your fingernails and on your fingers, and you let it gross you out as it should, your chances of continuing to bite your nails have decreased significantly. “People who bite their nails don’t usually clean their hands prior to putting them in their mouths, thus exposing themselves to a number of pathogens that can lead to illness, such as the flu,” says Dr. Hal Weitzbuch, a dermatologist from California. He continues and adds “It is very common for patients with warts on their hands to get the warts on their lips or in their mouth, and sometimes very unfortunately even deeper in their larynx,”
Dr. Tania Elliott, a physician at the EHE Institute of Preventive Medicine, adds, "Many people bite their nails in response to a particular trigger, no matter what the reason, the brain gets rewarded when doing so, especially if it is because of emotional problems. In order to stop biting nails, the reward mechanism that occurs in the brain must be replaced by a sense of disgust that is more befitting of such a habit. Once your brain understands this, it will be much easier for you to stop biting your nails. "
People who chew their nails often do so without thinking about it at all, but you should start thinking and delving deeper into a habit to stop it. The next time you catch yourself biting your nails, increase your awareness of the process and think about the taste of your fingers in your mouth, the pain that biting causes, the damage of this action and the texture of your fingers on your lips. Slowly, the act of biting will become something you’ll no longer want to do.
Dr. Jack Schwartz, a dentist from New York, says he does not even have to look at a person’s fingernails to know they’re a biter because it is evident from their front teeth. Research has even shown that the force exerted by the teeth during nail-biting may put pressure on the root of the tooth, leading to a lot of gum problems and even tooth infection and rot.
First, it is recommended to regularly get your nails manicured. "People who pay for manicures tend to bite their nails less," Dr. Eliot said. "Before you bite your nails, think about the time and money you invested in them to make them look beautiful." Note that this tip is not just for women – men can also get manicures, and if they are nail-biters, it’s even recommended.
Dr. Elliott also recommends taking a nail clipper everywhere, in your bag or even in your pocket. “Carry a nail clipper with you at all times and clip those hangnails before you have the urge to bite,” she said. - if you are embarrassed to do so, think about how much more embarrassing it is to be caught with your fingers in your mouth. Doing this will replace a bad habit with a good one – good fingernail grooming.