7 Signs You Need To Stop Biting Your Nails

We all may find ourselves biting our nails from time to time. It could be nerves, anxiety, boredom, or help with emotional regulation. It could be a non-destructive temporary behavior that is simply a cosmetic concern, but if this problem persists long term it could become serve and lead to a disorder known as onychophagy (nail-biting).

Bitten and Repaired Nails

Onychophagy is a pathological grooming disorder characterized by seemly uncontrollable, chronic nail-biting that is harmful to the fingernails, surrounding tissues, and oral health. Onychophagy is classified in the DSM-5 as an “Other Specified Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorder similar to other Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours (BFRBs). 

It’s important to notice and work to prevent your nail-biting habit from developing into a disorder that could be detrimental to your health. Let’s look at the signs that you may need to stop biting your nails. 

  1. How Long Have You Been Nail Biting? Often nail biting is something that begins in childhood or adolescence and does not continue into adulthood. How long have you been biting your nails? Is this a new habit or have you been doing it for a long time? The longer it has been going on the harder it may be to stop and the more damage you may have done. It’s important to consider the duration, frequency, and intensity of this habit. 
  2. Assess Damage: Are you damaging the tissue around your fingernails? Are your fingernails growing in odd? Are you damaging your teeth, gums, and mouth from nail-biting? When you bite your nails, you can chip away at the enamel which can also lead to chipped and broken teeth. 
  3. Social Impact: Have you been told by friends or family members that they are worried about your nail-biting? 
  4. Feelings of Shame/Guilt/Embarrassment: Have you ever felt embarrassed or felt ashamed of your nail-biting? Have you been shamed or laughed at for biting your nails?
  5. Anxiety: Do you feel tension or distressful feelings before biting your nails? Often, we start nail-biting to help us relieve stress, tension, or boredom. If this has become a way to cope with anxiety it may be a sign you need to stop and find a new release and coping mechanism especially if it is causing damage. 
  6. Feelings of Relief: After you finish biting your nails do you feel relief or even pleasure? 
  7. Loss of Control: Do you feel you have no control over your nail-biting? Have you tried to stop but nothing works? 

The line between healthy and unhealthy nail-biting is unclear. One has to take into consideration the intensity, frequency, and duration of nail-biting. If you answer yes to a number of these signs your nail-biting may be a problem, it’s important to seek some help or learn new ways to curb this habit before it gets worse. 

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