5 Tips for Nail Biters

By: Emilie Sennebogen

This is one habit you should kick!
This is one habit you should kick!
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

The effects of stress are far reaching. We mainly think of it as a mental state, but it can also have quite an effect on your physical self. The serious physical side effects of stress include high blood pressure, an increased heart rate and an overworked liver. Then there are nervous habits. These include scratching your skin, grinding your teeth, pulling at your hair, and the most common of all: nail biting. Although nail biting occurs most often in puberty, some people carry the nervous habit into adulthood. Although it's fairly harmless, it can increase your risk of infection and lead to sore or bleeding cuticles. If you're a nail biter, it's time to quell the habit by reading the following five tips.

Advertisement

5: Stress Management

Although it sounds harmless to call nail biting a nervous habit, what's usually going on when you're chowing down on your fingernails is some pretty serious stress. Learning some stress management techniques could go a long way toward allowing you to ignore your nails in times of stress. Breathing exercises are always a healthy way to try to calm yourself. So is meditation. If you don't have the patience for these things, try some good old-fashioned tough physical exercise. Grinding out a spinning class, lifting some weights or going for a long run are all great ways to get the stress out. At the very least, you may be too tired to bother with the nail biting.

Advertisement

4: Bitter Polish

To everyone else, it will look like a clear manicure, but it will taste awful!
To everyone else, it will look like a clear manicure, but it will taste awful!
Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Chances are if you were a child nail biter, your parents tried painting your nails with a bitter polish at some point to dissuade you from putting your fingers in your mouth. Make sure if you try this technique that you buy one of the polishes that's specifically made for nail biting cessation. This will ensure that you aren't ingesting the nasty chemicals that make up clear nail polish. The idea here is pretty rudimentary -- the gross, bitter taste on your nails should make you want to quit putting your fingers in your mouth. The key here though is using the stuff. If you're a nail biter, you may be reticent to use a bitter polish because you're so used to biting your nails. Regular use over the course of a month should help you kick the habit, though you may need to extend beyond that.

Advertisement

3: Substitution Therapy

Substitution therapy is one way you may be able to make some headway in your quest to stop biting your nails. It's a pretty basic psychological idea. What you're trying to do is replace a negative habit with another positive habit. This kind of therapy is used to kick all kinds of issues, but in the case of nails you'll probably get more out of a replacement that involves your fingers. Some of the more common recommendations for nail biting include artsy things like drawing, painting or working with clay. If you don't have an artistic bone in your body, you may want to think about getting a stress ball you can squeeze when you feel the urge to bite your nails. Over time, using substitution therapy can help you stop biting your nails altogether.

Advertisement

2: Reminders

Whatever works to keep your finger nails out of your mouth.
Whatever works to keep your finger nails out of your mouth.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

One of the big reasons why someone might continue to bite their nails well into adulthood is because it's become a mindless habit. If you've been a nail biter for 20-plus years, you probably don't even think about it when you bring your fingers to your mouth. Reminders can go a long way to help you here. Some recommend putting colored tape or band-aids around a couple of your fingers to alert you. Others bring a little pain into the equation with the old standby reminder: snapping a rubber band against your wrist when you feel the urge. If things are really bad and none of these reminders work, wearing gloves around the house is a more fool-proof, if a bit cumbersome, way to keep your nails intact.

Advertisement

1: Care for Your Nails

The typical nail biter's nails and cuticles can be pretty unsightly, so some believe that simply taking better care of your nails might inspire you to keep them out of your mouth. On your own, you can keep them trimmed and filed. Female nail biters may find that keeping them polished will help in the same way that a bitter solution might. If you need some professional help, getting regular manicures is a great way to keep your nails in the kind of shape you won't want to mess up by biting them. Artificial nails are another great way to keep you from biting, and you'll be preserving your actual nails underneath until you kick the habit.

Advertisement

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • "All-Natural Ingredients." Stopbitingnails.com. Aug. 4, 2012. http://www.stopbitingnails.com/ingredients.htm
  • "Nail-Biting - Topic Overview." Webmd.com. Aug. 4, 2012. http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/tc/nail-biting-topic-overview
  • "What Is Compulsive Nail Biting?" Brainphysics.com. Aug. 4, 2012. http://www.brainphysics.com/nail-biting.php