Nail biting is a very common stress-relieving habit, affecting both children and adults. Most people usually stop biting their nails by the age of about 30.
In a 1995 a study called ‘Operant Learning Principles applied to Nail Biting’ author Terry McClanahan, estimated that 28%-33% of children between the ages of 7-10, 44% of adolescents, 19 to 29% of young adults and 5% of older adults are nail biters.
Nail biting tends to be at its highest between the ages of ten and eighteen, and, although boys and girls appear equally inclined to bite their nails in their earlier years, after the age of 10, more boys than girls are nail biters.
You can bite your nails in times of stress, excitement, boredom, or it can be learned behaviour. You can be reading, on the phone, watching television, or you can feel anxious at work and bite your nails, without even realising it.
When you are stressed your hand often goes up to your mouth ready to bite, because there is an increasing sense of tension, and a sense of relief and rush of pleasure, after you have bitten them to the quick – then there is probably a stinging sensation.
Hypnotherapy is a good way to help you stop biting your nails, it is a state of deep relaxation, and an easy way to help the unconscious mind, which governs our habits and behaviour, to stop that habit comfortably.
Nail biting is often considered to be a common reaction to stress. A child or adult uses this as a coping mechanism to relieve pent up emotions or anxiety. By its very nature, nail biting is a reasonable substitution of one difficulty for another, and in many instances its used as a tension reliever.
Sometimes nail biting is just a bad habit, other times its due to emotional trauma, or disharmony among the family, work or school, any of these can trigger it. Nail biting may run in the family thus indicating a genetic factor, it can be due to many things.
Nail biting includes biting the cuticle, and the soft skin surrounding the nail, as well as the nail itself, leaving your fingertips red and sore and your cuticles may bleed, increasing the risk of infections around your fingers and mouth. Dental problems and infections of the gums can also be caused by nail biting.
There are several treatments which will help you stop biting your nails:
Hypnotherapy has had a lot of success with helping nail biters – it is a relaxing way to change your behaviour, and stop biting your nails. Nail biting is done at an unconscious level, you do it without even noticing – by using hypnosis the urge to bite your nails disappears. It is a very safe and relaxing way to help you stop that habit.
Cognitive behaviour therapy. (CBT)
Stimulus Control (SC) – to help you identify and then eliminate, avoid, or change the particular environmental factors, mood states, or circumstances that have become associated with that trigger, ‘picking’ or ‘biting’
You can also keep your nails trimmed and filed, you can manicure your nails, and paint them with a nail strengthener, (Nail Envy by OPI,) its like a clear nail varnish. Yes men as well. There is a special Matt Strengthener for men also. Taking care of your nails can help reduce your nail biting habit and encourage you to keep your nails attractive.
*Disclaimer: Results may vary from person to person
Dennis Bethards says
I am a 63 yr old male who retired a year ago. I have treated sleep apnea and treated major depression with anxiety. I am now convinced I have severe onychophagia. One my left hand I have not been able to let my fingernails grow out. When they reach any growth I chew and pick and use nail cutters ( not clippers and tweezers to even remove the cuticles. I am curious if hypnosis or an increase in my meds could relieve this. I am going to bring it up to my doctor on next visit. It is in just the last few months I have become aware of this as a likely OCD habit or learned behavior, which has gotten worse.
Alexander Rodick says
Nail biting is considered an impulse control disorder in the DSM-IV-R; the ICD-10 classifies it as “other specified behavioral and emotional disorders with onset usually occurring in childhood and adolescence.