Why People Bite Their Nails and How to Stop

Updated on November 11, 2017
LisaKoski profile image

I have had a lifelong passion for reading and writing and graduated with a bachelor's in English-literature.

A little time each day spent manicuring can help people who bite their nails.
A little time each day spent manicuring can help people who bite their nails. | Source

Do you bite your nails?

Are you a nail biter?

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Causes for Nail-Biting

There are many different causes for onychophagia, or nail-biting. One is that it is a learned behavior, but it is more commonly done due to stress, boredom, excitement, or compulsion. Most of the time, those who bite their nails don't even realize that they are doing it. This is because nail-biting may occur alongside other body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRB), which include pulling hair or picking at skin.

Nail-biters come in all ages, although it is commonly stopped after around the age of 30. It is difficult to decide on just one cause for why people bite their nails. What most nail-biters don't realize is that what they're doing is really bad for them. This habit can cause infections in the mouth or around the nail bed, give you red or sore fingertips, and cause your cuticles to bleed. Furthermore, long-term nail-biting can affect how nails grow and cause them to become deformed.

There are plenty of ways to work to stop biting nails, some of which are listed below. If you or someone you know is a nail-biter, perhaps one of these suggestions can help you or them cut this nail-biting compulsion for good. Keep in mind, it really is a lot easier said than done. I've been a nail-biter for years on and off. Trying to stop requires patience but, in the end, it's worth it for your own health and well being.

Are you a recovering addict?

Have you successfully stopped chewing your nails? How?

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Facts About Nail-Biting

  1. More boys chew their nails than girls.
  2. Half of children between 10 and 18 years are nail-biters, usually during puberty.
  3. Although some adults around 18-22 years old do it, nail-biting usually stops after age 30.

Ways to Help Stop Nail-Biting

1. Start taking care of your nails

This can mean that you just keep them clean, trimmed, and filed, but it could also include getting a manicure. The more you focus on taking care of your nails, the less likely you are to start biting and destroying them again. As a nail-biter, this has been the most successful way for me to stop chewing my nails.

2. Try to destress yourself

If you're the kind of nail-biter who does it because of anxiety or stress, then try doing things to help manage that so that you can avoiding biting your nails. Some examples would be exercise or a warm non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated drink. Simply getting enough sleep can also help.

3. Make 'em taste gross

This one hasn't been the most effective for me but it's pretty popular for most people so I'm sure it's quite effective. Using Thum or hot sauce are the most common remedies that I've heard of. The only downside is the stuff comes off quick when you wash your hands and whatnot all day, so you have to remember to reapply it. This is where it fails me because it's so much easier for me to just keep biting my nails.

4. Give yourself a negative reaction

I actually read somewhere where it was suggested to wear a rubber band around your wrist and so whenever you started chewing you could snap it. Eventually, you'll just subconsciously know that chewing nails leads to a negative reaction. Kind of similar to the suggestion above except it sounds a little crazier and, to me, seems less effective. Could work though, so if you think it will, give it a try.

5. Distract your hands

Get a new hobby like learning to play the piano or some other musical instrument. Play videogames, or knit. If you're a hubber, write more and chew less!

6. Get a tongue ring

Not a completely serious suggestion but at the same time, it's been proven by many a nail-biter who has gotten this piercing. Their ability to keep their mouth busy with their tongue ring has helped them kick the nail-biting habit for good. Another crazy suggestion but one that might just work.

7. Wear a reminder

Put a bandaid, sticker, or bracelet on so that you know not to chew your nails.

8. Stop biting, one nail at a time

If it seems like a daunting task to go cold turkey, try just protecting one nail at a time from your own urges to destroy them. They'll all eventually get long and beautiful and, before you know it, you'll have cut the habit.

9. Distract your mouth

Eat something like a carrot, chew gum, suck on ice, or do whatever else may come to mind to keep your mouth too busy to bite those nails.

10. Cover them up

If all else fails, fake nails or a pair of gloves can help to cover up those nails so you can't get to those suckers at all.

Taking the time to give yourself a manicure once in a while can actually help prevent nail biting.
Taking the time to give yourself a manicure once in a while can actually help prevent nail biting. | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Lisa


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      • profile image

        Unknown 4 years ago

        I have been obsessively chewing my nails and the skin around them hours apon hours for less then a year ,my nails have already become deformed. This habit started around the time that a turned 13, before then I only chewed my lips an cheeks (obsessively). I have no idea why I can't stop or why I even chew my fingers, it has just become a terrible habit that I can't seem to break no matter how hard I try.

      • profile image

        Abhi 4 years ago

        No, it does not seem stop even after 45. I have this accidental roommate who always keeps biting his nails and toothpicking. I feel ashamed to walk with him or sit beside him on buses, though I almost always avoid him.

      • vibesites profile image

        vibesites 5 years ago from United States

        I'm glad I've outgrown biting nails when I reached my teens... I realized it was gross. Ugh. And I started to get hooked on nail polishes around that time too. Thanks for posting, I didn't know that nail biting has such a term :)

      • leilabarda profile image

        Rosa Lea Acerimo 5 years ago from Marikina City

        happy to see a hub like this. it really made me realize that my habit is not a good one. i often notice myself nail biting when thinking and listening to my teachers when I was still studying. I will try to practice some tips and hopefully win over this bad habit of mine

      • rumanasaiyed profile image

        Rumana 5 years ago from Sharjah, UAE

        HI LisaKoski,

        This is an interesting hub. I was also a nail biter during my childhood. My parents used to scold me for that, but I don't know why I could not leave that bad habit.

        Now I can give you tips to any nail biter I see.

        Voted up Useful and Shared!

      • profile image

        Sunny 5 years ago

        Just so you know, I'm a boy and I'm 9. About 2 years ago I started biting my nails. It really bugs me and my parents. Because of this hub, I finally have have a strategy to stop biting my nails!

      • LisaKoski profile image

        Lisa 5 years ago from WA

        Based on my experience, the skin around your fingernails will be fine once you let it heal and allow your nails to grow. Good luck! It's hard to stop biting nails but you can do it. The trick that has worked best for me has been taking care of my nails and painting them every week so that they look too nice to destroy. While they were still embarrassingly short, I used clear nail polish until they were long enough to use color without feeling self conscious.

      • profile image

        Jen 5 years ago

        I never realized how bad I was about biting my nails until my fiance' pointed it out to me. I never even notice when i'm doing it. But now that he pointed it out to me I catch myself doing it ALL day! No matter what i'm doing i'm biting nails. I never knew how bad I actually was about it. I am the same way , I get embarrassed to have to hand someone money at a store because I don't want them to see how bad my nails are. Today will be my first day not biting them. But i also bite the skin around my nail to were it hurts to press my fingers down on something. Will the skin around my finger nails ever grow back normally?

      • meloncauli profile image

        meloncauli 5 years ago from UK

        It's amazing how it feels to have beautiful nails, after they have been bitten for so long! Great for self-esteem, if only because it is a hard habit to break. Great hub!

      • profile image

        Acylon 5 years ago

        I used the rubber band trick and that worked for me. When I noticed I was biting my nails I would snap that sucker hard! That ends the habit pretty darn quick!

      • Janis Goad profile image

        Janis Goad 5 years ago

        I enjoyed your hub. I bit nails as a child, as a reaction to stress and anxiety from perceived judgement from my mother. I bit until I finished school and graduated from university. Once I was living alone and started doing yoga and finding my own centre and living there, much of my stress lifted.

      • deepateresa profile image

        DEEPA JOHN 6 years ago from Trivandrum, Kerala,India

        Great Information , I had this behaviour in the childhood, Now I have get rid of this ...

      • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

        Vinaya Ghimire 6 years ago from Nepal

        Though I have seen nail biting people I did not know nail biting is called Onychophagia.

        Thanks for sharing this informative hub.

      • LisaKoski profile image

        Lisa 6 years ago from WA

        Thanks for reading :)

      • cloverleaffarm profile image

        Healing Herbalist 6 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

        Ha, I didn't know it had a diagnosis. I bit my nails constantly for 35 years, and then just stopped. I still tend to bite them, but I am just not a "long nail" kind of gal. They just get in my way. Thanks for the information. Voted UP

      • LisaKoski profile image

        Lisa 6 years ago from WA

        I am the same way when I bite my nails. Gets to where I can barely touch anything because my fingertips hurt so bad. I work as a cashier so that helps make me very conscious and keep my habit in check most of the time so it's not so embarrassing to hand back change. I don't think most people realize just how much everyone looks at eachother's hands. Good point!

      • MyGirlThursday profile image

        Kate Herrell 6 years ago from Denver, CO

        I bit my nails for years as a result of undiagnosed anxiety. Somehow, they didn't get as short as that photo above, but I would stay at it until they bled. I am very dilligent about painting my nails now and keeping them pretty, but every once in a while I buy fake nails to help. It is truly a compulsive thing and I couldn't control it for a lot of my life. It is also (weirdly) a hormonal thing for women sometimes. My advice? Consider that about 90% of your communication is done with your hands! That definitely keeps me in check! Nice work :)

      • LisaKoski profile image

        Lisa 6 years ago from WA

        suzettenaples: I had no idea nail biting had an official name until I researched for this hub. I've been biting my nails on and off for as long as I remember. Definitely getting manicures help but I've also found that if I get a good amount of sleep at night and avoid caffeine then I won't even think about chewing my nails.

        Sarahhh666: Perhaps he was anxious about your date. Chewing nails is gross but most of the time the person doing it is completely unaware of it. When I would bite my nails, I was always pretty good about not doing it in public though. Hopefully the rest of your date went well.

      • Sarahhh666 profile image

        Sarahhh666 6 years ago from near Philly

        I had a date last night with this dude I never went out with before. We're riding in his car and he is driving with one hand and biting his nails on the other. Do you think he was bored or excited? Anyway, I thought it was disgusting. I thought about picking my nose in response. I doubt there is going to be a second date, but if there is, I'll give him some of your suggestions.

      • suzettenaples profile image

        Suzette Walker 6 years ago from Taos, NM

        This is really interesting. I didn't know nail biting had an official name. I was a nail biter when I was young. By the time I got into high school I had stopped. The best way to stop was getting manicures. After paying for them, I wasn't about to bite them away!