Most people understand that nail-biting is a nervous habit. It seems to be one of the many ways that we deal with anxiety, stress or worry. Some of us turn to food or drink when we are nervous and when we feel stress. Others go “out” and maybe do some shopping. A few individuals even hide away by sleeping or lying down and closing their eyes.

Then there are the hundreds of people who bite their fingernails when they get nervous. In many cases, these individuals don’t think about what they are doing. They may “catch” themselves biting their nails a few seconds after they start but they most often start nibbling away at their nails without realizing it.

While nail-biting doesn’t seem to be a serious problem, it is generally viewed as a “bad” habit that we should try to break. In fact, nail-biting can contribute to illness and to minor injury. Bacteria growing under the fingernails can make us sick when they get into our mouths and eventually travel to our stomach and intestines. We may also damage the tender skin around and under the nails, especially if they are chewed excessively.

Try to Stop
Whether you bite your nails because you are nervous or chew on them to smooth the edges (so you don’t have to find a nail clipper) you might want to try some simple steps that can help you break the habit. Perhaps the best way to change this habit is to replace it with another habit. If you can stop biting your fingernails as soon as you start then turn to something else for a few seconds you may find that you have given yourself something else to do when you get nervous or bored.

Something as simple as putting a piece of sugarless chewing gum in your mouth will help. Do this every time you are tempted to start chewing your fingernails. Follow this with a few minutes of trimming and cleaning, giving the nails a good appearance without biting them. Some people have tried putting something directly on their fingernails to break themselves of the habit. Any bad-tasting substance that won’t harm you or make you seriously ill will grab your attention! If you follow this with some other habit, such as chewing a piece of gum or doing something simple like trimming the nails that need trimming, you are starting to develop a different habit. Substitute some other activity, such as squeezing a small rubber ball for a few seconds (just long enough to keep you from chewing on your nails).

If nail-biting is a serious problem, one that gets in the way of your everyday activity, you should probably seek some assistance to understand what is causing you to be so nervous and obsessive. It may be necessary to wear gloves for a short time to prevent nail-biting. Some women start to wear artificial fingernails for the purpose of preventing nail-biting. Others have even tried a bitter-tasting nail polish for the same reason. Any step like this will help eliminate a common habit like biting the nails


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Lucas Beaumont
Generalist. Wikipedia contributor. Elementary school teacher from Saskatchewan, Canada.

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