Just the other day, I found my daughter gazing at the TV with a blank stare while she busied away, nibbling at her nails! In speed seconds, I had given her a lecture of a lifetime on the ugliness of the act, the tendency to habit and the agony of trying to end it. I must have bored her to sleep!
It brought back memories of my days as a professional nail biter and of the many many times I thought I had kicked the habit to the curb –only to find myself back at it –voraciously chewing my own flesh!
The nail biting habit is quite common among the young, it’s one of those things we pick up as children and almost everyone –nail biter or not, has their own version of the causes and cures to the nail biting habit.
Many associate nail biting with the stress factor while others suggests frustration, nervousness, low self esteem, loneliness, and even meditation. But take this from an ex-nail biting pro; it’s all of the above and more!
Nail – biting (onychophagia) is a common stress – relieving habit. You may bite your nails in times of stress or excitement, or in times of boredom or inactivity. Deep thinking, nervousness, solitude and sometimes shyness can set off a nail biting session that lasts and lasts until you begin to see red… and suddenly wince from the pain and bloody scar on your fingers!
This does not mean that all the people who have the habit of nail biting are mentally disturbed! No! It only underscores the dangers of cultivating a negative habit and the rigors of trying to set yourself free.
A number of problems can develop due to nail biting: Fingers become red and sore and cuticles begin to bleed. It increases the risk of infections around nail beds and in the mouth. Also, dental problems and infections of the gums can be caused by nail-biting. In extreme cases, long term nail biting can interfere with normal nail growth and cause deformed nails.
For a cure to nail biting though, the story is as diverse as they come. Most people stop nail biting as they grow older, but a lot of people find they still cannot stop.
Several treatment measures may help stop the nail biting habit. Some focus on behaviour changes while others focus on physical barriers to nail-biting.
To break the habit in general, carefully examine and figure out when you are most likely to bite your nails and begin practicing alternative actions for those times. It’s one long conscious practice that should never end.
Here are other solutions being offered for the habit:
Keep your nails trimmed and filed.
Taking care of your nails can help reduce your nail-biting habit and encourage you to keep your nails attractive.
Have a manicure regularly or use nail polish.
Men can use a clear polish. Wearing artificial nails may stop you from biting your nails and protect them as they grow out.
Try stress-management techniques
If you bite your nails because you are anxious or stressed you could try out some stress management techniques
Use a bitter-tasting polish
Paint a bitter-tasting polish, such as CONTROL-IT or Thum, on your nails. The awful taste will remind you to stop every time you start to bite your nails.
Try alternative stress-relieving actions
Try substituting another activity, such as drawing or writing or squeezing a stress ball or silly putty, when you find yourself biting your nails.
Keep a record
If you keep a record of nail-biting, you will become more aware of the times when you bite your nails and be able to gradually stop the habit.
Use Physical bearers
Wear gloves, adhesive bandages, or coloured stickers whenever possible to remind you not to bite your nails.
Snap a rubber band on the inside of your wrist when you start to bite your nails so you have a negative physical response to nail-biting.
Helping Children who bite
Children may bite their nails more often when they are having problems at school or with friends. Talk with your child or his or her teacher about any new stress at school. Children are more likely to stop biting their nails when they understand what may trigger it. It is also important for your child to help choose a treatment method so he or she can use the treatment successfully.
Like any other habit, nail biting can be conquered. And like any other feat, it requires determination and know-how.
Share your thoughts with us on the negative habits you struggled or yet struggle with and if you have overcome, good for you –share that too! – send it all to email@example.com