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Why do People Bite their Nails?

Updated on August 23, 2012


Ever since, my sister keep on biting her nails. No matter how much control she gained to not bite her nails, she unconsciously do it. We keep on telling her to stop, but as normal as it seems for her, she didn't actually know that she was biting her nails.

The clinical name for nail biting is Chronic Onychophagia. It is classified as one type of emotional disorder, an impulse control disorder that affects greatly to children and adolescent. And as the child grows up, she/he literally carries it in later years.


Although, there are no definite answers why some people bite their nails, there are number of theories that explains why people unconsciously do that. Some theories revealed that the cause of compulsive nail biting is a combination of biological and environmental factors.

Here are some widely spread theories:

  • person develops the nail biting habit as result of a very stressful situation
  • some people bite their nails in order to relax themselves
  • nervousness is the culprit why some people do that
  • others bite their nails when they are hungry
  • some people are bored
  • think too much
  • solve a problem
  • inactivity
  • anxiety
  • oral fixation ( desire or craves something to put in the mouth)


The Consequence of Nail Biting


It may seems therapeutic to some, but compulsive nail biting has actually a bad effect for the health. The effect may not be evident too soon, but medical experts suggested that it cause more than money that you may assume. If the cuticle on your finger nails will gone, it is susceptible to microbial and viral infections such as paronychia. Several years of nail biting may deformed your nails permanently as well.


Treatment available to stop nail biting


There are quite number of possibilities on how to stop biting your nails. Treatment is cheap and affordable. Some of these are:

By applying the bitter-taste nail polish ever made, denatonium benzoate, the most bitter chemical compound, nail biters would not consider biting it again with the thought of tasting the most bitter taste they've ever tasted.

If bitter-taste nail polish is not effective, behavioral therapy is applied.Psycho-behavioral therapy includes: Habit Reversal Training (HRT), Self-Monitoring, Stimulus Control (SC), and Competing Response.

Medication. Experts said that the habit of nail biting is related to obsessive compulsive disorder, so they usually treated patient with how they treat OCD patient. Though, they claim that not all are responsive to the medication, it doesn't mean that it is the end of treating the disorder. Medication is just a tool to help the patient overcoming the habits of nail biting.

Actually, it just a simple solution that only the person who usually bite their nails can make it happen. Of course, with the help of family members and close relatives, and psychotherapist, it can be done.


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