Breaking the Nail-Biting Habit

10 tips on how to stop biting your nails

It is estimated that up to 30 percent of the global population and as much as half of all teens are nail biters.

Doctors classify chronic nail biting as a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder since the person has difficulty stopping. Most chronic nail biters will often make multiple attempts to quit without success.

While their are a number of factors which may trigger nail biting, including stress and anxiety, children are most commonly affected and often grow out of the habit with age.

Should you, or someone close to you, be struggling to break the nail biting habit, consider trying some of the following treatment options:

Cut nails regularly: Short nails aren’t as satisfying to bite, so keep them short to remove possible temptation.

Use a foul tasting nail polish: One of the oldest tricks in the book. Try a nail polish with a nasty taste, specifically designed for nail biters.

Relaxation and self care: Achieving a healthy body and mind is much easier when following the basic principles of self care. Eat a variety of natural foods, sleep well, exercise regularly and take time out to relax and do things you enjoy.

Get a manicure?: If the nasty tasting nail polish fails, why not get a manicure? Spending time and money at a salon will give you good-looking nails and a financial reason to keep them that way.

Use social support: The support of friends and family is often critical when breaking the nail biting habit. Having someone to stop you from biting when you are doing it unconsciously is a big help, just as being able to talk to someone when you are finding things difficult.

Behavioural therapy: Therapy can aid in releasing emotions that contribute to nail biting, as well as the harmful thoughts that often accompany nail biting. A good therapist will also be able to work with you to quickly identify nail biting triggers.

Wear gloves: It may not be pretty, and it may sound silly, but it definitely works. If you can’t see your nails, you aren’t tempted to bite them. If they are covered, then you can’t bite them full-stop. If gloves are not appropriate for your setting, stickers or clear tape can also be applied.

Identify your triggers: Both internal and external stimuli may cause someone to start biting their nails, but once the triggers are identified, other coping mechanisms can be adopted. Identifying your triggers also allows you to identify situations which may lead to nail biting and stopping yourself from biting, before it happens.

Replace a bad habit with a good one: When you get the urge to bite your nails, or when you find yourself in a trigger situation, try putting your mind and body to work. Complete a short exercise or stretch when you are thinking of biting. Keep a stress ball or even click a pen to keep your hands busy and easily occupy your mouth with a piece of gum.

Try gradually stopping (weaining off): If the cold turkey approach is too much of a mountain, start with smaller goals, such as choosing a nail not to bite. Once that isn’t a challenge anymore, add another nail to the bite free zone and continue until all fingers are off limits.

As mentioned above, nail biting can be a tough habit to break free from and often requires multiple attempts before success is achieved. If the cold turkey approach isn’t working start with smaller goals, such as choosing a nail not to bite. Once that isn’t a challenge anymore, add another nail to the bite free zone and continue until all fingers are off limits.

Consistency is key, you can do it, don’t give up.

Published by Harry Hansford

Australian in Spain with a passion for all things sport, health, fitnes & nature. Go deeper to find out more.

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