Nervous Nail Biting

generations-462134_1280An onychophagist, or more commonly a “nail biter,” is a person who habitually bites his or her fingernails. Nail biting is a common oral habit among children and young adults, and is the most common of the typical nervous habits such as nose picking, hair pulling, tooth grinding or skin picking.

Now you may think it is completely normal and healthy to bite your nails rather than clip them; however, you may be causing more harm than good. Studies have shown that between 26 to 33% of children between the ages of 7 to 10 and 45% of adolescents are nail biters; so you aren’t alone in this endeavor, but studies show that this practice can create a multitude of health risks: damage the cuticles, cause secondary bacterial infections, alveolar destruction, malocclusion, crowding or rotation and attrition of the incisors, and more.

Additionally, people who are seen chewing their nails are often stigmatized or judged by peers to be anxious or untidy. This can also be attributed to the rough edges produced when biting nails. Physicians who ar afflicted with this condition need to take extra care to avoid the habit as it can lead to making patients uncomfortable or disgusted.

If you’re reading this and start to become self-conscious about the appearance of your fingernails from your excessive nail biting, you’re not alone, and there is help. This condition is often related to stress, so finding healthier modes of stress relief can help break the habit. Ways to do this include behavioral modification such as positive reinforcement or taking up another hobby, such as exercise, for distraction. Further, some suggest wearing gloves or replacing the oral habit with another one like gum chewing.