How to stop biting and picking at your nails
The habit of biting or picking at your nails and surrounding skin is something that usually manifests from a young age, even though stress and other factors can cause this habit to form once you’re older.
It is not only a bad habit that might leave you feeling embarrassed when you get called out for doing it unconsciously, but it can also have permanent negative effects on your nails and the skin surrounding them. I have personal experience with my husband who can’t stop picking at his nails.
What can cause you to bite your nails?
Nail-biting is not a perfect science. Many things can trigger you to start biting or picking at your nails. The trick is trying to find the cause and dealing with it. In mild cases, nail-biting can be due to boredom or frustration and might be a habit you’ve developed when in similar situations.
A good idea to deal with this is to consider buying a fidget toy. This will keep your hands busy and keep them away from your mouth.
More often than none, however, nail-biting and picking can be traced back to stress or anxiety. It might be an unconscious thing you started doing when you’re under severe stress or find your anxiety creeping in.
This may even be an unknowing outlet for your emotions in trying situations. It is important to pay attention to your actions when stressed to prevent these actions from becoming habits.
Nail-biting can also be caused due to a psychological disorder like ADHD, OCD, and others.
What are your triggers?
Determining what triggers you to start nail-biting or picking is the first step to breaking the habit. No one person is alike so what helps your friend might not work for you and vice versa.
Start by the process of elimination. I would approach it by asking myself questions like:
- When are my nails most damaged? Before/during big events, or when I have nothing to do?
- Is there ever a time when my nails start to look better?
- Do I struggle with stress or anxiety?
- How long have I been struggling with this habit?
If you can determine the root of the habit you can start paying attention to how you react when in certain situations. You can be more aware of what you do with your hands and nails and try to prevent the unconscious action of nail-biting and picking.
Things you can do to help with nail biting
- Buy fidget toys to help when you have problems when biting your nails while bored or while in frustrating situations.
- Get your nails done by a professional to cover them in a hard material like acrylic. This will help you refrain from biting your nails and will also protect your already brittle nails against the elements and give them time to grow out and heal.
- Buy anti-biting nail polish which will deter you from biting your nails as it is foul-tasting.
- Consider going for Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which will help you replace unwanted behaviors with better ones.
- In extreme cases seeing a psychiatrist when you’re experiencing these behaviors due to psychological deterioration might be a good idea.
Some things you can try when you notice this unwanted behavior:
- Ask someone to tell you to stop when you bite or pick at your nails. This will probably be someone you live with. It can be really effective as you might not even realize you’re doing it. Having someone pointing it out might help you become more aware o your actions and be more conscious about your habits.
- Keep reminding yourself mentally not to do it. This can be difficult because some habits you usually do subconsciously especially a habit like this, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Try keeping it at the back of your mind and you might be surprised at how many times you might catch yourself motioning to bring your nails to your mouth.
Why you should stop biting and picking at your nails
- Malformed nails and permanently damaged nail beds will result in your nails never growing out normal again.
- Bacterial infections in the skin surrounding your nails.
- Fungal infections on your nails that might need antibiotics to clear up.
- Continuous pain and discomfort.
- Bacteria being passed between your nails and mouth can cause you to become sick due to the transfer of bacteria.
- You can damage your teeth while gnawing on your nails.
Ask a professional
When you tried these methods and they don’t seem to be helping you must visit your local doctor or health professional. As I mentioned above things like overstressing aren’t good for your health and you should seek out a professional to help you deal with it personally, someone to be there for you every step of the way.