Onychophagia, also referred to as nail biting, is the process of doing damage to your fingernails and the surrounding tissue as a result of a number of reasons which vary from one person to the other (we’ll get to that in a while). Nail biting can be a non-destructive behavior if it’s done temporarily, and it’s mostly a cosmetic concern. However, if it’s persistent and continues for a long time, then nail-biting might develop into a severe, long-term problem.
The aftermath of nail biting is initially, as mentioned, a cosmetic concern, meaning the nails won’t look as good as you might want them to and they will not only be ill-looking but they will also be seriously damaged. Studies infer that people who bite their nails have claimed to be feeling distressed before succumbing to nail-biting and then felt relief after having done so. But, the important thing to know is that the relief one feels after biting their nails is quite temporary, meanwhile, the damage that is done to the fingernails, the tissue, or the cuticles takes long to heal. The process of nail-biting is not only destructive for one’s hands. Biting your nails might cause different mouth injuries, it may trigger dental problems, and you might also be prone to different infections since the whole process is not hygienic, at all.
Nail biting can be caused by a number of things, which are more or less the same to the very core of it, however, they differ from person to person. Some of the causes of nail biting are preoccupation or boredom, anxiety, learned behavior, perfectionism, and even genetics. Read more about it here.
How to stop nail biting?
Nail biting or nail biting treatment can be a struggle. Mostly because you feel like you’re dependent on this habit. Or like you have no control whatsoever over your actions. That’s why it’s so important to stop this habit. The cosmetic concerns, your nails not looking good, the embarrassment you might face, the limitations nail biting may cause you when it comes to interactions with other people are only some of the annoying things that come in the aftermath of nail-biting.
This habit is, without a doubt, a bad habit. Bad habits might interfere with your physical health as well as with your mental health. If you have a bad habit, you should make sure to recognize it and then work towards changing it. Reportedly, most of your bad habits might be caused by either stress or boredom. However, there is hope. You can learn how to teach yourself new ways to cope with either stress or boredom, and this way you will replace the bad habit of nail biting with another good habit that won’t cause you any damage.
But, it’s true. Breaking a bad habit requires hard work, patience, and determination. Here are some of the ways you can fall into the process of nail-biting treatment:
1. Be committed: Before entering any type of process, make sure you are committed to it and set it as a goal, and make sure that giving up is never an option. I told you that stopping this habit requires patience, so don’t expect your nails to grow and heal overnight. It won’t happen. But you will definitely see results within a few months (depending on how badly your nails are damaged). But, trust me, as a former nail biter, it’s definitely worth it!
2. Identify the triggers: Triggers may be various. Biting nails might start from the presence of hangnails, or other triggers such as anxiety, boredom, or stress. However, when you realize and recognize what is triggering you to bite your nails, you might be aware when it’s about to happen and you can find different ways to cope with the problems. I mean, what does nail-biting do after all? Only causes you more damage.
3. Do manicures: This one is particularly important. Why? Well, if your nails are looking nice to a degree you will want them to look even nicer. I get it, in the beginning, it can be difficult since you might have short nails and the manicure might not look as good as you want it to; but nails grow, and if you simply hang on to it, you will reach the results that you want. So, my advice would be: spend time on your nails. Shape them, apply polishes that have treatment ingredients, and make sure they look decent. Trust me, you will hesitate when it comes to bite them.
4. Replace the bad habit: Sometimes, when breaking a habit does not work, you can try and replace that one with a good habit. Meaning, every time you feel like biting your nails, try playing with a stress ball, your bracelets, or hair-ties. You might even start reading a book, writing, or going for a walk or a run. Although these might not be as convenient for the times when all you want to do is lie down and rest – but, you should learn to adapt. If you’re feeling more energetic, go for a walk. If you’re tired or stressed, grab a stress ball instead.
5. Bad taste polish: There are bad taste polishes you can buy over the counter that might help you prevent the nail-biting. They taste bad so you’ll be reluctant to allow that taste in your mouth.
6. Do it gradually: According to research, some doctors recommend to stop nail biting gradually. Meaning try to stop biting one set of nails first, such as your thumbnails. Then proceed with the pinky nails after the former is successful, and so on. One nail set at a time.
REMEMBER: You have no idea how much you can control yourself if only you want to! Learn to be patient, learn to wait and work for good results, learn not to do things because of temporary relief, work for the long-run. This is how you not only better your nails but also yourself! If there was one thing I learned when I was breaking the habit of nail biting is patience, and I am thankful for that – as well as how my nails turned out to be.
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