You know, for a dude like me who once battled with nail-biting, you would agree that it is not so easy to stop a habit you have become so acquainted with probably since birth. Most people who have held on to their habit of nail-biting started getting fascinated about how sweet their nails are somewhere around infancy.
You are not going to tell me the tale because I think I know a little about it myself, how you suck on those juicy short nails in those fingers, and never rest until you eliminate them to the lowest part of their roots. But why this obsession in the first place, why do people bite their nails? Let's quickly head back a little to how you started your nail-biting career. One or some of the factors below could be responsible for yours.
If you care for a definition, which I am sure you do not, nail-biting is the act of nibbling your nails little at a time until the entire fingernails level up completely. Some over-zealous nail-biters go as far as crusting off the leathery palmar skin surrounding the nail, so much that they begin to appear white and leprous. But what else could they do at such times when that habit seems to be one of their greatest hobbies, serving as a panacea for stress, anxiety, and boredom?
Why Do People Bite Their NailsThere are many reasons why you bite your nails and different people have had their own share of experiences on what makes them bite their nails. But is nail-biting completely exclusive to only a few people? The answer is no.
There are also non-habitual nail-biters who just occasionally look back to their nails in certain conditions. These conditions in this case are acting as triggers but in most of those people, the nails do not appear like the classical whitish, nibbed, and leprous finger appearance of habitual nail-biters.
So let's see a few of the triggers to nail-biting:
- Stressful conditions
- Hard tests or exams
- Quiet conditions full of high mental activity
- Worries and anxiety
- Impulsive/spontaneous, in the absence of any real stimulus.
Like I mentioned earlier, the habit of nail-biting usually begins in infancy and childhood. So I propose my own theory about why children begin the habit of nail-biting at those ages? Here is goes;
Why children bite their nailsOne common reason why people bite their nails is being found in stressful conditions. In infancy and childhood, the major stressors are hunger, boredom from restriction from play, and disappointments from not getting what they want at the moment. When these stressors are engaged, little children have very limited responses. They simply put up a cry, either a simple cry or a loud energetic chant. But when they find out that will not give them what they want, their next response is to sit somewhere and express their frustration, and then, their hand reflexly hops into their mouth. What a great feat thereafter.
Another thing about children that is already established is that "sucking" is one of their primitive reflexes (known as the Moro reflex) that starts immediately at birth. That means the little infant would not only suck on the nipples of the mother's full breasts, they are also going to take on anything that comes in contact with their lips. So, this reflex that is supposed to disappear around 6 to 7 months of life continues to adulthood and here you are with it as a habit.
I offer my little hopes that If I could stop nail-biting myself, anyone can. But how did I stop the habit? What did I do to stop nail-biting?
Reasons To Discontinue The Habit of Nail-Biting
Aesthetic ReasonsMy best description for badly-bitten nails is "an unsightly, miniature nail lying irregularly on a commensurately oversized and pale-looking finger surrounded by dark margins that cannot be thoroughly washed". I'd take it that I spewed too much grammar into that description already but the simple fact is that bitten nails do not look that great. This is one reason why you should worry about the habit of nail-biting.
Health ConsequencesPutting your fingernails into your mouth not only makes them unsightly but they are
The risk of getting new infections or re-infecting oneself is significantly increased by hand to mouth contacts as occurs in nail-biting. The hand is, as a matter of fact, a rich reservoir for many bacterial, parasitic, and common viral infections. For example, transmission and infection with the coronavirus (COVID-19), are greatly enhanced by hand-to-mouth, nose, or eye contact. Other common infections like funal onychomycosis and whitlow could also be enhanced by the habit of nail-biting
Transmission via the fecal-oral route is also enhanced by nail-biting, bearing in mind that the hand is the singular part of the body that reaches almost all parts of the external body surface.
Regular handwashing has been recommended by the World Health Organisation(WHO) and Centre for Disease Control(CDC) to prevent transmission of certain infections, including the recent COVID-19.
It is important to note that the habit of nail-biting increases the risk of acquiring other infections further by up 30 - 35%.
Social ReasonsI have often caught one or two people trying to withdraw their hands from being seen because they are well aware that they do not look their best. They wish they could stop destroying their nails, but one other thing they ended up destroying is their own confident personality. People's assessment of their personality also significantly falls negatively.
Methods of Stopping Nail Biting Habit
- Use of force or threats: This is especially important in very little children who have caught the habit of nail-biting.
- Application of chemicals that have a toxic taste: This may include bitter solutions, peppery-hot substances, and herbs that are non-toxic to the fingers but can discourage injection of the fingers into the mouth.
The shortcoming of this is that one can easily wash the chemicals off the fingers and continue to enjoy the feast of nail-biting. So which is a more effective method then?
- Deliberate trimming of the nails with a nail-clipper: This involves using instruments like the nail clipper, and a nail-file to keep the nail short and make the edges and margins regular. From experience, having nails with ragged edges and margins encourages the habit of nail-biting. Sometimes, even if you put your hand into your mouth, you do not find the right spot to nibble on the nails and the time it will take you to find a rough edge to bite, you may have already remembered your resolution to stop biting your nails.
1. Neem Oil/Bitter Leaf/Bitter GourdNeem oil and bitter leaf paste have a strong bitter taste when put into the mouth. By applying these bitter-tasting substances onto the fingers, you can discourage putting the fingers into your mouth and thus discouraging nail-biting.
How To Use
- For neem oil, gently use a cotton ball to rub neem oil on your nails.
- Then, allow it to dry.
- For bitter leaf paste, get one or two broad leaves of the bitter leaf plant, then mash into paste.
- Then, apply the paste onto your fingers and let it dry over them.
- For bitter gourd, make a paste by crushing one bitter gourd.
- Put the paste on a sieve to extract the juice.
- Apply the juice on your nails and fingers and allow it to dry.
2. Garlic Paste or OilThis is especially effective in people who dislike the strong smell and taste of garlic. Garlic is a natural spice with a very pungent smell and spicy taste that can make soups taste better. But these properties can be harnessed in the fight against the habit of nail-biting. It may also have some antiseptic properties too.
How To Use
- Cut a clove of garlic into halves.
- Run one piece over your nails liberally and leave it on for a few minutes before washing off. The lingering garlic taste should prevent you from biting your nails.
- You can also use garlic oil instead, spread it on your nails with a cotton ball.
3. Nail Biting PolishNail-biting polish is also effective for stopping the habit of nail-biting. Nail-biting polish are specially designed to help people quit thte habit of nail-biting. They come as the regular glossy nail polish but additionally with a bitter unpleasant taste that discourages you from putting your hands into your mouth for nail-biting.
Alternatively, a regular dark-colored nail polish could also be used because when the nails are covered in a dark-colored polish, they immediately look unsighty to you when they are chipped from nail-biting. This can be more motivation to quit the habit of nail-biting.
How To Use
- For Mavala Stop polish in the link above, dry your nails in the evening
- Then apply a coat of Mavala Stop over your nails before going to bed at night
- Allow one minute to dry
- Then, repeat the same thing every day, while removing the polish from the previous day using a nail-varnish/remover.
- This should be similar for other nail-biting polishes.
4. Regular ManicureMany people have complained that the only way they can let their nails find peace is by covering them up with a artificial nail. Whereas, this may not be a permanent solution to the habit of nail-biting, it can be greatly helpful, especially when you do it for a long time.
5. Trim the NailsThis I consider a very affordable but highly effective means of curtailing the habit of nail biting. When you cut your nails, ensure that you use a good nail-clipper to keep the margins and edges straight and regular.
How To Use
- First, choose the right clipper
- Open the lever of the nail clipper by rotating it about its axis, then lifting it up and rotating it back.
- Gently place the nail margin you want to clip off between the teeth of your nail-clipper
- Then, press the two levers towards each other.
- Finally, file the edges with a nail-filer until no ragged edges are left.
- Repeat for other fingernails and when your nails begin to regrow
6. Wear Hand GlovesGloves work as a good barrier method that can help you stop the habit of biting your nails. When you feel like putting your hands into your mouth to nib on them, the gloves prevent you from doing so and also remind you of your commitment to totally discontinue the habit.
7. Adhesive Bandages/PlastersThese are another great barrier methods for stopping the nail-biting habit. They work just like the handgloves, except that they do not cover the entire hand and fingers. Ther could be specialised adhesive bandages and plasters in the market for nail-biting but essentially any self-adhesive bandage would be sufficient.
How To Use
- Reel out and cut of piece of the self-adhesive bandage or plaster.
- Circle it round the end of your fingers until it is totally covered.
- Ensure that it is firm enough to resist pulling off.
- You may keep the bandages on your fingers during the day and remove them at night or decide to replace them only when they fall off, become wet or dirty.