Do you bite your nails? Keys to Breaking That Bad Habit

Do you bite your nails? Keys to Breaking That Bad Habit

Nail biting may seem like a common and harmless habit, but for many people, it goes beyond a simple gesture. Anxiety can trigger this compulsive behavior, affecting not only the appearance of your nails, but also your mental health.

Onychophagia is the bad habit of biting your fingernails and/or toenails. This behavior causes damage to the fingers, teeth and nails themselves, causing infections and giving the hands an unpleasant appearance.
But beyond the physical consequences, Onychophagia is normally linked to an emotional or behavioral situation caused by stress, anxiety, boredom and/or frustration.

Along with other related behaviors, such as lip or cheek biting, onychophagia is classified in the DSM-5 (a psychiatric guideline used to diagnose mental health disorders) as "body-focused repetitive behavior disorder."

How Anxiety Leads to Nail Biting

Anxiety is a natural response of the body to stressful situations, but when this anxiety becomes chronic, it can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including the habit of nail biting.

Nail biting becomes a coping mechanism, a way to temporarily distract yourself from the underlying anxiety. Additionally, the physical act of nail biting can release endorphins, providing a momentary feeling of relief.

Onychophagia is a compulsive act used to release tension, calm nerves or channel anger. It is an act similar to biting the skin on your fingers, pulling your hair, sucking a strand of hair, chewing on a pencil, or biting your lips or the inside skin of your mouth. All of these behaviors are ways of escaping and relaxing, reflex acts that are often unconscious.

Health Impact

Biting your nails not only affects the appearance of your hands, but it can also have consequences for the health of your nails and surrounding skin. Nails can become weak and brittle, and the skin around the nails can become irritated and infected.

Aside from visible problems, compulsive nail biting can lead to:

  • Cuticle injuries.
  • Nail deformation.
  • Deformation of the finger joints.
  • Paronychia (bacterial or fungal infection in the skin around the nails that appears swollen and red, it can become chronic).
  • Dental and temporomandibular joint complications.
  • Psychological discomfort, as those affected may feel ashamed of the appearance of their nails.
  • The good news is that long-term damage from nail biting is rare. But it happens, especially if you swallow bitten nails.

    You may also be ingesting bacteria that can cause a stomach or intestinal infection.

    What to do to eliminate this habit?

    Changing any habit can be difficult and takes time. But with the right plan (and some perseverance), you might be able to stop biting your nails for good.

    Nowadays it is quite common to observe onychophagia in people of all ages, which is why different therapies have been generated to get rid of it.

    Identify triggers

    Pay attention to the times when you are most likely to bite your nails. The three most common triggers are:

    • Being anxious or stressed.
    • Feeling bored or unstimulated.
    • Being mentally absorbed in a task.

    Once you identify what triggers the habit, try to find a behavior that replaces nail biting. Consider squeezing a stress ball, playing with a fidget toy, or chewing gum.

    Try remedies that prevent nail biting

    The easy solution to Onychophagia is to go to the doctor to prescribe one of those flavored dyes that are placed on the fingers and that cause a bitter and unpleasant taste to come to our mouths every time we bite our nails.

    It is also recommended to take care of your nails: file them, paint them, put some transparent polish on them; Likewise, let them grow and be aware every time we put our hand to our mouth.

    Barrier-type interventions that block contact between the mouth and nails, such as gloves, mittens, socks, and retainer- or bite plate-type devices, may be more effective because they serve as deterrents to biting and as physical reminders not to bite. However, constant or long-term use can be difficult.

    Get professional treatment

    If you can't break the nail-biting habit on your own, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) can help you get to the psychological aspect of nail-biting.

    Those who feel intense shame, guilt, or anxiety about nail biting, feel unable to stop, and find that it interferes with one or more areas of their life may benefit from seeking psychological treatment.

    Do you bite your nails? Keys to Breaking That Bad Habit

    CBD to Prevent Bad Habits

    In recent years, CBD has gained popularity for its potential mental health benefits, including its role in managing anxiety. CBD is a compound derived from cannabis, but unlike THC, it does not have psychoactive properties. Instead, it interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system, which plays a crucial role in regulating mood and stress.

    In the treatment of repetitive body-focused behaviors (BRFB) such as nail biting, CBD can help with the causes that cause this need for calm: "CBD may be useful in combination with cognitive therapy." behavior to reduce stressful, obsessive, compulsive and anxious tendencies," says Dr. Junella Chin, medical director of

    If you are considering our CBD Zen as an option to address anxiety related to nail biting, it is important to start with a low dosage and adjust as necessary. Watching how your body responds is very important to get to the exact point where we feel that CBD is helping with anxiety and stress.

    Nail biting as a response to anxiety can be emotionally and physically challenging. Finding effective solutions is key to addressing both the underlying anxiety and the habit itself.

    CBD has emerged as a promising option for anxiety management, but it is important to address this option for managing compulsive behaviors by combining it with a comprehensive approach that includes both strategies to reduce anxiety and treatment options for nail care and health. dental to definitively break that habit.

    Sources consulted

    Onychophagia, when anxiety forces you to bite your nails and you can't stop

    ONYCHOPHAGIA IN ADULTS (Habit of nail biting)

    Onychophagia (Nail Biting),%2C%20lonely%2C%20or%20even%20hungry

    Art of Prevention: The importance of tackling the nail-biting habit,in%20children%20and%20young%20adults

    How biting your nails is affecting your health,pass%20bacteria%20to%20your %20mouth

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