Nail Biting: A Hard Habit To Break
Growing up, and for most of my adult life, my father had a notorious habit for biting his nails down to the quick – it had had just always been one of his nervous habits and seeing him with his hand in his mouth just became commonplace. Today, he takes great care of his nails, has stopped nail biting, and even purchased his own set of nail and cuticle care products. I must say, I was surprised, and wondered how he could just stop after all those years. He simply said he got tired of having rough looking nails and decided to quit. Well, as with any bad habit, it`s not that easy for all of us. Not everyone has that kind of resolve.
Everyone`s Got Their Habit
Mine`s chewing on my lip, by the way. Nail-biting, though, has a scientific distinction. It is known as “onychophagia” and can actually become very severe. Nail-biters vary in the method of their madness. Some are very deliberate about their nail-biting and use it to soothe themselves or cure boredom, while others do it almost without intent, as if in a trance. This compulsive action seems to be a response to both over-stimulation, or nervousness, and a lack of stimulation, or boredom.
Psychologists think that all nervous habits, including nail-biting, all stem from the same compulsive place within us. This compulsion can have its root in the chemicals of the brain and may even have genetic causes. It`s sad to think that this compulsion, along with others such as skin picking, can leave some of its victims with such severe damage that they have to hide it. Cases this severe are often treated with medication.
The Damage Continues
Surprisingly, the damage nail-biters do to themselves goes deeper than just crummy looking nails. They often create sores under the nail bed that bleed and are prone to infection, they tear off protective layers of skin and cuticle that leaves the nail and surrounding skin exposed, weak and brittle nails result, and many even do damage to their teeth!
What Can You Do
Assuming your nail-biting habit is within mild levels like my father`s and isn`t impairing your ability to function or use your hands, we have some tips that can help you break the habit. As with any habit, nothing will provide an absolute cure except the passage of time with concerted effort to reverse it – it takes time to create the habit, and it takes time to break the habit.
Firstly, decide that you will be more aware of where and when you engage in nail-biting. Is there a certain activity associated with nail-biting? Watching T.V., for example? Or perhaps in a more nerve-wracking situation. If you`re more aware of the instigating factors behind your nail-biting, you can do more to control it. Also, get yourself a weekly manicure. We`re less likely to bite at our fingers when they have colorful polish and we just invested money in them. And lastly, if you suspect your nail-biting is in response to stress – deal with it! Breathe, exercise, meditate – whatever you need to reduce stress.