If your nail biting is extreme -- meaning that you regularly bleed, have lost nails or have permanent damage due to your habit -- then it may be time to seek help. Onychophagia is actually part of a group of behaviors that fall under the diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD). If you suspect that you may have OCD, consult a psychiatrist. He may suggest medication, therapy or a combination of both. Medications that may be prescribed include drugs that you've probably heard about, such as Paxil, Zoloft or Celexa.
Even if you don't have a diagnosis of OCD, you can still try behavioral treatments to curb your nail biting. This may includecognitive behavioral therapy, where you explore feelings and behaviors and seek new ways of behaving in order to change a particular feeling or unwanted habit. You might also try meditation, yoga, or exercise as a distraction from the urge to bite. And remember that what works for one person may not for the next, so be sure to try multiple strategies – or a combination of strategies – to help you kick the biting habit.
Finally, some nail biters have found relief through hypnosis. Typically, you'll be taught the patient cues so your subconscious mind can make your conscious mind aware of the habit. You'll also learn how to eliminate the compulsion to bite and how to relax more in general.
If you try one or more of these tips, you may look down one day to realize that you no longer have to be ashamed of your nails. For more on beauty and hygiene, check out the links below.
- Acto Dermoto-Venereologica. "Onychophagia as a Spectrum of Obsessive-compulsive Disorder." (Feb 4, 2012) http://www.medicaljournals.se/acta/content/?doi=10.2340/00015555-0646&html=1
- Almasi, Mary Rose. "Easy at-home nail care." Shape. Sept 2004. (Feb 4, 2012) http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0846/is_1_24/ai_n6168562/
- Bazelon, Emily. "Bite Club." Slate Magazine. Feb 28, 2008. http://www.slate.com/id/2185363/
- Brayden, Robert. "Nail Biting." CRS: Pediatric Advisor. Sept 7, 2006. (Feb 4, 2012) http://www.cpnonline.org/CRS/CRS/pa_nailbite_pep.htm
- Clausen, Tanya. LCSW. Personal correspondence. Feb 2, 2012
- Cooper, Anderson. "The agony of adult nail biting." CNN. Originally pub. in Details Magazine. Nov 2003. (Feb 4, 2012) http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/08/16/nails/index.html
- Dermatology Times. "Nail Biting 911." March 2006.
- Leung, Alexander K.C. and William Lane M. Robson. "Nailbiting." Clinical Pediatrics. Dec 1990. Volume 29. Issue 12. (Feb 4, 2012) http://cpj.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/29/12/690
- Mayo Clinic. "Can I harm my natural nails by wearing acrylic nails every day?" (Feb 4, 2012) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acrylic-nails/AN01261
- Nails Guide. "Different Types of Fake Nails." (Feb 4, 2012) http://www.nails-guide.com/different-types-of-fake-nails/
- Penzel, Fred. "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders: A Complete Guide to Getting Well and Staying Well." Oxford University Press. Oct 19, 2000.
- Thomson, L. "Hypnosis for habit disorders. Helping children help themselves." Advance for Nurse Practitioners. July 2002. Volume 10. Issue 7. (Feb 4, 2012) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12420554
- WebMD. "Nail-Biting." (Accessed Feb 4, 2012) http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/tc/nail-biting-topic-overview
Woods, DW and RG Miltenburger. "Habit reversal: a review of applications and variations." Journal of Behavioral Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. June 1995. Volume 26. Issue 2. (Feb 4, 2012) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7593685
Today it's second nature to paint your fingernails and toenails. But it's been a long road to here. HowStuffWorks breaks down the colorful history.