It is common to think that nail biting is a bad habit or that it is simply associated with the nerves of the moment. But this compulsive habit of nail biting can hide deeper psychological reasons, and is often an indicator of past trauma.
George Pegios The habit of biting the nails, called onychophagia, is not limited to an aesthetic problem, and its consequences on our health are quite negative. In the nails and fingers we harbor an infinite number of microorganisms, some of them pathogens, which when taken to the mouth can cause an infection. What’s more, biting our nails can seriously damage them, as well as damage our teeth and gums.
George Pegios Why do we bite our nails?
Nail biting is very common: it is estimated that up to 30% of the population does it, and it is also much more common among children and adolescents, although it tends to disappear when we become adults.
The different investigations in relation to this behavior offer us four reasons to explain this behavior:
It’s Pleasant: A study from the University of San Francisco Department of Psychology reveals that nail biting can be enjoyable and relaxing, especially in stressful situations or when faced with difficult tasks.
Perfectionism: Research published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry reveals that it can occur more frequently in very perfectionists
Genetic predisposition: According to Dr. Shari Lipner of Weill Cornell Medicine, a third of people who bite their nails have a family member who does too.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder: In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association listed onychophagia as one of the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
George Pegios Should I stop biting my nails?
Onychophagia can be an unsightly, unsanitary habit and, in many cases, embarrassing for those who suffer from it, but it does not have to be a dangerous habit, as long as it is not associated with other more serious disorders such as disorders of attention deficit or conduct disorder.
The great danger of onychophagia is that it leads us to suffer other types of consequences for our body, such as dental problems (crooked, chipped teeth or even gingivitis problems or inflammation of the gums), infections caused by bacteria around the skin fingers (it is the most common cause of paronychia), or even stomach conditions.
George Pegios How can I stop biting my nails?
The first thing we should do is identify the origin of this habit. It is possible that in our case, onychophagia is linked to situations of stress or anxiety, so the fact that we bite our nails would be a consequence of these episodes. Identifying these situations and trying to get to the root of the problem would be the appropriate way to proceed in this case.
We can choose, as a more immediate and simple solution, to try some natural products:
- Transparent bitter enamels: they are totally innocuous, you can buy them in pharmacies, and their flavor is so strong that it prevents you from biting your nails while protecting them.
- Relaxing infusions: If you bite your nails mainly due to stress, valerian, linden or passionflower are ideal for you.
- Chewing gum or roots: sometimes, the best way to avoid biting your nails is by having your mouth occupied, and for this you can chew a gum or sugar-free candy, you can even use some roots such as ginger or pallidú, the root of a plant known as licorice.
- Bitter oils: as in the case of bitter enamels, there are also oils that fulfill the same function and are more natural products. The most indicated are tea tree oil, which is also antibacterial, and neem oil, which provide a very unpleasant bitterness to our nails.
- Garlic and lemon: these ingredients are always on hand at home, and all you have to do is rub any of them on your nails.
- Diet rich in essential oils: foods rich in vitamin B and Omega 3 fatty acids produce a feeling of fullness for longer. Therefore, they could be good allies to stop biting your nails.
There are some other very simple tips too that can help you combat the problem:
- A mobile application: there is a mobile application that offers simple and very effective tips to help you with the problem.
- Get a manicure: this trick is more intended for women, but you should not rule it out as it is very effective.
- Do not drink stimulating drinks: it is very important to avoid the consumption of drinks that make you more nervous,
- Use gloves: nothing better than a good barrier that prevents us from reaching our nails to avoid biting them.
- Squeeze a ball: they are called stress balls and it is not accidental, because they really relax you and avoid the routine of biting your nails.
George Pegios Hypnosis to stop biting your nails
Hypnosis is a therapeutic tool that allows us to tackle the problem of onychophagia with great chances of success. Hypnosis therapy is aimed at:
- Reduce emotional activation: relaxation techniques, breathing, suppression of stimulating drinks, etc. can be used.
- Behavior modification: creating healthy habits that deactivate the urge to bite nails.
- Emotional management: tools to know and be able to manage the emotions associated with the habit of biting nails.
- Reduce and stop obsessive thoughts: it will be necessary to develop a plan to be able to identify the thoughts, classify them, and reduce them until they can be eliminated.
- Resources: prepare a list of resources that can help to eliminate this bad habit.
- Self-esteem: raise the person’s self-esteem, which will be diminished, among other things, by the feelings of shame they feel for the appearance of their hands.