Are you ready to discover how to stop biting nails, once and for all? Maybe you picked up the habit during childhood. The Children’s Physician Network says nearly half of all children bite their nails, but most people stop biting nails by their mid-30s.
For those who don’t stop, nervous habits like nail biting become unconscious behaviors that arise from stress, anxiety, or boredom. Nail biting is not only unattractive, it can be unhealthy, too. Nail biting can stunt nail growth and spread infections.
- Discover your reasons for nail biting. Nail biting probably seems like a habit, with no clear cut answer to the “why” question. But some people bite their nails for very specific reasons. Stress, boredom, anxiety, and fear are common reasons. Discovering why you bite your nails will give you a better idea how to stop biting them. Keep a journal for a while, and see if you can find your nail biting patterns.
- Deter nail biting with commercial products. Drugstores and discount stores sell products in the nail care aisle designed to stop nail biting. Creams, oils, and nail polishes often contain ingredients that taste bad and discourage biting. Hot ingredients like cayenne pepper extract, and bitter ones like denatonium saccharide, are commonly found in these non-toxic products. Home remedies, such as black pepper and bitters, are not as successful because they wash off more easily than commercial products.
- Distract yourself with an object or hobby. If commercial deterrents don’t work for you, try distraction. Whenever you realize that you’re biting your nails, redirect your energy. Keep your hands busy with a stress ball, for example. Or distract yourself with palm stones, also called pocket stones, touchstones, or worry stones. These flat, smooth polished stones may help eliminate the urge to bite your nails. If you prefer to do something more constructive with your time and energy, turn to your favorite hobby.
- Keep your nails well-groomed. Well-groomed fingernails are one solution for the nail biting habit. Give yourself a manicure once a week. Manicure kits contain all the tools you need to keep your nails groomed. Trim them with a clipper and smooth them with a nail file. Soak your fingers in warm water, with a little lotion or olive oil added in. Follow with an orange stick to push your cuticles back. Dry your hands, and complete your manicure with hand lotion or cuticle cream.
- Seek professional help, if needed. If your nail biting habit is extreme and nothing seems to help, consider professional help. You may have onychophagia, a condition that falls under obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD). A doctor can prescribe medications to control this disorder. He may also suggest cognitive behavioral therapy, habit reversal training, or other treatments. For some nail biters, hypnosis is the answer.