Although many people think otherwise, biting your nails isn’t just about stress, desire or not looking after yourself. This habit can have a psychological undercurrent and many times points to trauma during childhood.
Nail-biting, also known as onychophagia, has very serious implications not just from an aesthetic perspective, but also from a health point of view. Nails carry virus and bacteria that can make you ill after coming into contact with your mouth. You can also permanently damage your nails, teeth and even your gums from biting your nails.
But don’t worry. With a little bit of hard work, skill and the 10 tips you’ll find in this article you’ll have pretty healthy nails once again.
Why do I bite my nails?
Nails are mainly formed from dead cells keratinized and have all sorts of uses in humans. They can even be used to play string instruments since they make a very distinctive sound.
Nail-biting or onychophagia can start just by putting your fingers in your mouth, something children do all the time. Although it’s not considered an illness per se, it is a psychology pathology that when not controlled, needs specialized help. There are two types of causes:
- External: Anxiety or nervousness triggered by daily troubles like problems with your partner, tests, economic or job problems. The person can control themselves.
- Internal: Change in the nervous system or emotional imbalance caused by family traumas, abuse, jealousy, humiliation, self-esteem problems, or the need to punish oneself. The habit can go on for years and the person bites their nails so severely it can be considered self-harm.
You might think a little nervousness never hurt anyone and that your nails will grow back but consider this. Onychophagia has consequences you can’t begin to imagine.
Nail-biting: Permanent damage
Hand reflect the health and security of a person: clean and cared for hands leave an excellent impression wherever you go. Biting your nails has social, emotional and health implications.
Health and aesthetics
- Nails carry all sorts of germs which travel through the digestive tract when they get into contact with saliva and can provoke diseases.
- The damage to the cuticle and the fingers’ skin can let in bacterial and viral infection through the hands.
- Can provoke deformations of the fingers and the nail might be lost forever.
- Chronic inflammation of the fingers.
- More cavities from damage to the teeth.
- Anxiety about the hands’ appearance
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of self-control
- The person might feel rejected from society
- Personal relationships might be affected
- Job problems: turned down at interviews
Stopping biting your nails is beneficial on a social, emotional and psychological level. Here are 10 easy tips to stop biting your nails. Read them carefully and get started!
10 tips to stop biting your nails
These aren’t complicated treatments or weird products for your nails that might end up affecting you. If you incorporate these simple tips into your daily life and you really put your mind to it, you’ll achieve your goals.
Tip 1:Self-knowledge and liberation
First you should identify the situations that activate your need to bite your nails like caressing, touching, feeling, rubbing or scratching your nails which lead directly to you putting them in your mouth. The second step is to identify the times when your habit gets activated like tests, before you make certain decisions, etc. The third and final step is to choose the activities that avoid this stress cycle and keep your hands busy: they should be things that you like doing like sports, dancing, playing a musical instrument, etc. That way you’ll channel your anxiety and you won’t hurt your nails.
Tip 2: Substitute with plants
Start chewing on edible plants like liquorice root (slowly). That way you won’t be biting your nails but you’ll keep your mouth busy. You need to carry the plants with you in stressful situations; they’ll help you focus.
Tip 3: Sugar free gum
It’s a good idea to chew gum or mints whenever you feel an uncontrollable desire to bite your nails. This is a win-win-win: your mouth will be busy, your breath fresh and you’ll avoid getting wrinkles because of the jaw muscle movements.
Tip 4: Aloe vera
The Aloe vera plant has many health properties but it tastes terrible. Peel an aloe vera leaf and cut it into chunks. Put them in the fridge and rub your nails with a piece every morning. I promise that after you taste them for the first time you’ll keep your nails far away from your mouth.
Tip 5: Self-control exercise
This exercise will help you control your desire to bite your nails:
- Put your finger two inches from your mouth.
- Pull it away.
- Do this several times, bringing your finger closer and closer to your mouth.
- Try putting your finger in your mouth for a few minutes without biting your nail. Repeat.
Do this exercise a few minutes every day and I promise you’ll be surprised by the results.
Tip 6: Fake nails
Put on acrylic nails. That will let your nails grow and make it impossible for you to bite them. If you spend money on your nails, you’ll go to great lengths to not ruin them by biting on them.
Tip 7: Nail band-aids
Put band-aids on your nails and leave them on a few days (you can change them every time you take a shower). The idea is for you to take off the band-aid and see how beautiful your nails look healthy. Repeat as many times as necessary.
Tip 8: Pick up a hobby
This activity will distract you, keep your from biting your nails and at the same time you’ll discover a new passion. It might be decorating your house, knitting, running or other outdoor activities even, who knows, give your friends manicures. I recommend one that includes getting your hands dirty like anything to do with dirt or plaster.
Tip 9: Gloves
If you like gloves, use them. They’re a great way to prevent onychophagia.
Tip 10: Celebrate your success
Celebrate your nails. Talk about how good they’re looking. Encouragement from your friends and family will help you keep them healthy and beautiful.
It’s more about skill than strength
Now you have several ways to prevent onoychophagia and get it out of your life forever. Don’t get depressed. Little by little you’ll achieve your goal, it’s just a matter of thinking it through and aiming for it. Choose your tips to stop your nail biting and keep your hands healthy and beautiful.