Are you constantly biting your nails? If you are, you would probably describe it as a habit caused by anxiety, right?
According to new research published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, not only would you be wrong but you are probably a perfectionist! This is what scientists now believe is behind nail-biting and other ‘body-focused repetitive behaviors.’
“We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviors may be perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform tasks at a normal pace,” said Dr Kieron O’Connor, the author of the study. “They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals.”
48 participants took part in the study, 24 of which have been identified as individuals who frequently engaged in repetitive behaviours such as nail-biting.
Researchers had the participants fill out some surveys that focused on the subjects’ organizational behaviour and emotion regulation.
The results identified nail-biters as organizational perfectionists, which reaffirms the report of Scientific American that identifies organizational perfectionism as an inclination towards over-planning, over-working and becoming frustrated by a lack of activity.
It seems like nail-biting helps perfectionists feel less frustrated about the present, especially if it is a present characterized by inactivity. That way, they are finding an outlet for releasing some of that pent up energy and frustration.
It is important to note, however, that such satisfaction is short-term, after which feelings of pain and embarrassment may resurface.