This nervous habit is quite common and is related to that person’s emotions. Some people keep up with this habit for their entire life, whereas others fall into it whenever they feel stressed or anxious.
Nail biting: a constant bad habit
Repeatedly biting your nails is the problem that we are going to address in this article. Some people suffer from an intense form of this problem and are unable to do any kind of activities because their hands are always in their month. When this happens, we call is “onychophagy.”
This is more than just an aesthetic problem, because it makes the person feel ashamed to shake hands with someone else or show their fingers, etc. 50% of the population, mainly women, suffer from this problem. It tends to occur between 10 and 18 years of age and can last for the person’s entire life.
Most people who attempt to stop biting their nails by applying topical solutions end up failing. Why? Onychophagy is caused by anxiety, nervousness, depression, stress, boredom, personal problems or sadness.
Nervous or negative habits can start after a tiny, unnoticeable change in your day. Once a person starts adopting that new attitude, they end up practicing their habit more often throughout the day.
The main cause of nail biting is that the person is not aware of what they’re doing. They tend not to notice the activity until someone points it out, or until they injure themselves. So, you could say that onychophagy is an automatic response to a problem, an escape, or a wait to avoid or express feelings, etc.
People who live around nail biters are also part of the problem. This is because, although they may see nail biting as a problem in the beginning, they will soon start to see it as something normal, thus ignoring the activity.
On the other hand, people who suffer from this issue are very used to biting their nails, and they connect it with certain activities such as watching television, reading, talking, etc.
Why do people bite their nails?
Psychologists have come up with a list of the main causes of nail biting. Pay attention, because these could help you understand your personality.
When you are stressed, have lots of problems, or feel anxious, you are more likely to bite your nails. Your need to find a way to escape the situation causes you to suffer from onychophagy. Plus, biting your nails has a calming effect on the nervous system.
Not doing anything in particular, being inactive, or feeling bored are also common reasons why people bite their nails. The habit of nail biting is a way to stimulate the nervous system, which can help you to stay awake, for example.
People who bite their nails tend to spend a number of hours each day looking at their hands and making sure that their nails are absolutely perfect. If they find any imperfections, they automatically try to fix them. You should also know that this habit causes problems in your teeth, hands and skin.
Lots of children who bites their nails do so after seeing their parents practice the same bad habit. In the case of patients who are over 18 years old, onychophagy tends to appear as part of an anxiety disorder, or because of a tic, hyperactivity, or obsessive compulsive disorder.
Many people bite their nails to cause pain, injure themselves, etc. This may occur in violent families, children who were subjected to severe parenting styles, or as a way to gets others’ attention.
Shyness and low self-esteem, as well as the pain caused by divorce or the death of a loved one, can cause people to bite their nails. This habit tends to disappear if and when the person feels more self-confident and starts to trust their environment again.
Nail-biting kids: what you should know
A recent study shows that young children who bite their nails tend to have less social skills than children you do not bite their nails. This conditions affects about 45% of kids in industrialized countries (versus only 10% in adults). It is part of an anxiety disorder which is an attempt to reduce anxiety levels, but which also has negative consequences, both for the child’s body and self-esteem.
There are lots of reasons why one might bite their nails, and it can become an unconscious act, almost like an automatic reflex. Kids are unable to realize that they are harming themselves and, over time, it is very difficult for them to get rid of this habit, according to experts.
Children who have problems at school, such as bullies, poor performance in class, etc., as well as those who live in an unhealthy environment, are more likely to suffer from onychophagy.
When faced with stressful situation, nervousness, distress or personal discontent, they bite their nails as a way to escape from that situation. Although this condition is not serious if it is recognized early on and treated properly, it is also important to note that nail biting in children under 10 years old should be addressed by a psychologist.
Usually, this bad habit disappears once the person feels embarrassed to show their hands, or, for young girls, when they start wanting to wear makeup, do their hair, etc. This is generally around 13 years old.
That’s why experts point out that onychophagy is related to social problems, because children first feel sad about something and isolate themselves from their peers while biting their nails. This then becomes a vicious cycle because, since their hands are all bitten up and don’t look nice, they become even more introverted.