Boredom, anxiety, stress, nervousness – these are four unfavorable mental and emotional states that can lead you to bite your nails. Nail biting, when done occasionally, is not bad. In fact, it is very common among children and teenagers; and all people have gone through a few nail-biting moments in their lives.
However, if you developed the habit as a child and have not outgrown it as an adult, this may lead to a host of problems. Aside from the embarrassment of having unsightly nails, nail-biting can result in nail infections, an increased risk of contracting diseases, and oral and dental problems. Fortunately, there are ways to get rid of this unpleasant habit.
- Experts have identified boredom as one of the two primary reasons why people bite their nails. If you are easily bored and tend to gnaw on your fingers when you are, avoid situations that allow you to do nothing. Take up a hobby that keeps your fingers busy like knitting and doing puzzles; or, go out for a walk or spend more time with friends instead of sitting alone on the couch.
- Another major cause of nail biting is stress. If you are constantly under stress, find ways to manage it. You can enroll in a gym or yoga class, or practice meditation and relaxation techniques.
- Know what your nail biting triggers are. Do you often do it when you are watching television? While studying? When you are anxious? Identifying what causes you to bite your nails will enable you to avoid them or devise ways to deal with them. Better yet, take note of these triggers and write them down in a journal for better self-awareness.
- Wrap your fingers with Band Aid or an electrical tape. Oftentimes, nail biting is done unconsciously and you will be unaware that you are doing it. So, the next time you involuntarily bring your fingers to your mouth, biting on a wrap instead of a nail will serve as a stark reminder that you are doing something you are not supposed to do and be able to stop yourself.
- Keep your nails short. The temptation will be lesser if there are no nails to bite on.
- Coat your fingernails with a substance that is unpleasant to your taste, such as hot sauce, vinegar or bitter nail polish, to discourage the habit.
- Visit the salon regularly for a manicure. Knowing that you spent a lot of money to keep your nails attractive will make you think twice before taking a bite.
- Count on the support of people around you. You can ask your friends, members of your family or colleagues at work to call your attention once you start biting your nails.
- Use technology to your advantage. You might find that there are certain hours of the day when you are prone to bite your nails. This could be while reading the morning paper or reading a book before bedtime. If this is the case, you can use the alarm feature in one of the electronic gadgets you always carry around, and let it go off during these specific times. The alarm will serve as your reminder not to bite; or, if you are already in the middle of a nail-biting episode, prompt you to stop.
- Replace nail biting with another habit. Think of an alternate harmless habit that you can do whenever you feel the urge to bite. This can be as simple as drumming your fingers on a flat surface or twiddling your thumbs. You can also put a rubber band around your wrist and play with it instead of putting your fingers to your mouth. The trick is to keep your hands busy until the compulsion to gnaw on your nails disappears.