Nail Biting: When Does It Go Too Far?

Do you end up compulsively chewing away your fingernails — perhaps even with out realizing you’re doing it? For 20 to 30% (or extra) of Americans, nail biting is a habits they will’t cease on their very own. Preventive drugs doctor and wellness knowledgeable Sandra Darling, DO, shares when the behavior warrants greater than only a nail-biting deterrent polish. 

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Q: When is nail biting an issue that wants medical consideration?

A: If nail biting causes bodily hurt and psychological misery, then skilled remedy is important. Usually, the individual is aware of the habits is problematic, however they will’t management it on their very own. It is essential to hunt assist if the habits is affecting psychological and bodily well being:

  • Damage to the nail, cuticle or surrounding pores and skin.
  • Bacterial infection.
  • Dental issues.
  • Psychological injury (disgrace, low vanity, depression).
  • Relationship issues.

Q: What’s behind chewed-to-the-nub nail biting?

A:  For most individuals, nail biting is an occasional factor. When folks can’t cease the habits on their very own, docs contemplate it a sort of body-focused repetitive habits (BFRB). We consult with power nail biting as onychophagia and we don’t absolutely perceive the trigger (although there could also be a genetic part).  We do know that folks with these situations typically have onychophagia as properly:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity dysfunction (ADHD): Hyperactivity and impulsiveness, plus problem paying consideration. 
  • Oppositional defiant dysfunction: Defiance and disobedience towards folks of authority.
  • Separation anxiousness dysfunction: Excessive anxiousness when separated from specific folks or pets.
  • Tourette syndrome: Involuntary actions and sounds. 
  • Other BFRBs: Chronic pores and skin choosing, hair pulling, cheek biting and grinding enamel.

Q: Are there particular triggers for onychophagia?

A: The habits is often computerized — folks don’t notice they’re doing it. Chronic nail biting typically has a self-soothing high quality (it supplies a way of calm), so folks might use it as a coping mechanism.  Sometimes, a hangnail or nail imperfection may spur somebody to excessively groom the nail. Their objective is to enhance the look of the nail, however sadly, the nail typically finally ends up trying worse. They don’t intend to self-harm — it’s a grooming habits run amok. Other triggers could possibly be boredom, needing to pay attention or a tense state of affairs. 

Q: How do folks cease biting nails?

A: Doctors classify power nail biting as a sort of obsessive-compulsive disorder because the individual has problem stopping. People typically need to cease and make a number of makes an attempt to give up with out success. People with onychophagia can not cease the habits on their very own, so it’s not efficient to inform a liked one to cease. While you need what’s finest for them, reprimanding solely reinforces their emotions of being flawed. It could make somebody really feel worse and additional gas the habits.  With repeated effort and self-care, folks can get nearer to restoration. We normally suggest a mix remedy strategy that features:

  • Behavioral remedy: Therapy might help launch the disgrace and damaging feelings that always accompany nail biting. It may assist enhance consciousness of the triggers and urges you’re feeling. In some circumstances, habit-reversal coaching or hypnotherapy are efficient.
  • Self-care and rest: Self-care — common meals, extra motion, ample sleep — enable you to really feel extra calm, assured and resilient, providing you with the power to get better. Nail biting satisfies a robust urge, so to quiet the thoughts and ease the pressure created by the urge, we suggest meditation, journaling and yoga. 
  • Social help: Talking to a help buddy while you really feel the urge to chunk your nails might help you get by means of the tense second. The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors affords a listing of help teams and academic occasions.
  • Treatment of any psychiatric issues: People with power nail biting may have drugs or behavioral remedy to deal with a associated situation.

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