How to Stop Nail Biting: Tips to Quit Habit

Nail biting is a common habit observed in most of the population. This habit usually starts from childhood and may prolong when not quitted. The habit of nail biting can be both acute and chronic.

Stats show that 20-30% of the general population engages in chronic nail biting. Moreover, it occurs 20-33% during childhood and 45% during teenage. Medically it is known as Onychophagia: a body-focused repetitive behavior. Mostly the victims repeat it constantly: in tension or maybe in pleasure. Its side-effects can be severe or can lead to a chronic infection.

The exact causes of nail biting are still unknown. But scientists say the habit of nail biting can be the result of a parent’s fault or genetic. But if you have this habit, you can stop it. The only way to stop nail biting is to know its harmful effects and side effects.

What are the Harmful Effects of Nail Biting?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, “harmful effects of nail-biting can be more than cosmetic.” It can even harm the mouth or immune system. The habit of nail biting expresses you are triggered either by thoughts, emotions, or situations.

The other way, it has the following effects:

Abnormal Growth of Nails: Repeated nail biting can damage the skin and tissues around the nail, resulting in abnormal growth of nails.

Increase Risk of Infection: Nail biting is a source of transferring germs from hands to mouth and body. Thus increase the risk of infection and can cause cold.

Harms the Teeth: It disturbs proper alignment and creates gaps and spaces among the teeth. Habitual nail-biting can erode and crack the teeth or even breakdown the root of teeth.

Tips to Stop Nail Biting

Dr. Klapow says “Biting down nails can be a source of relieving stress or give feelings of a relief or signal of accomplishment”. It usually proceeds with stress and becomes a constant habit, even in low-stress conditions. You can stop this habit by keeping your mind and then following these tips.

Keep Nails Short

This is the basic and first strategy to stop the habit of nail biting. Keep your nails trimmed or short. If you bit the nails, you will not feel a sense of satisfaction because of their short size. Also, the short nails don’t provide house to germs. Start by trimming your nails and then proceed to other tips.

Identify Your Triggers

There is always a reason behind everything. You should know what is the trigger that stimulates you to bite your nails. These triggers may range from physical to thoughts or anxiety.

Either it is a physical trigger-presence of hangnails. Dr. Manly says, “Some people bit their nails when they feel tired, hungry, or insecure”. While most people do this in case of anxiety or tension.

Identify the trigger or situation which causes you to bite the nails. Once you have discovered your trigger, it will be easy for you to get rid of this habit. Then design a prevention plan and avoid that situation or trigger.

Apply Nail Paint

This is also an alternative to get help in quitting the habit. Bitter-tasting lacquer or nail paint will discourage you to bit the nails. The use of bitter taste on nails will force you to think before chewing the nails.

Replace with Good habit

Engaging in some good habits can prove to be a good alternative. Keep yourself busy and engage your hands in some other habit. You can go for a walk or exercise or can play a game. When stress triggers you for biting nails, immediately hide away from the scenario or touch something else to release the energy. Find some other good habits to keep you busy.

Take Regular Manicure

Money is our weakness. When you will spend money on a manicure, you will definitely keep yourself away from biting nails. A manicure can make your nails short and look beautiful. If unintentionally you bit your nails, the risk of infection will be lowered as manicure keeps your nails hygiene.

Think of Your Health

Your health must be your priority. And biting nails is making you sick. Not only your teeth but also your whole body is at a risk. Hands are house beds for germs.

When you bit your nails, you transfer these germs to the mouth. It can damage the root teeth causing them to erode or develop gaps. Children who have braces on their teeth can also be affected by biting.

Additionally, biting nails can also transfer germs to the body. It increases the risk of infection or weakens the immune system.

Nail biting is a habit and you can get rid of it. Think about its effects on your body and health. Then adopt some tips and ways to stop nail biting. There are also treatments and therapies for this disease when it becomes severe. But you can stop nail biting in the early stages with little effort.


What is nail biting a symptom of?

Nail biting can be a symptom of mental disturbance such as stress, anxiety, and tension. It leads people to release their tension by biting nails. Other emotions such as hungry, boredom, and tiredness also urge you to bite your nails. All these reflect habitual nail biting.

Do nail biters get more sick?

Yes, nail biters are more likely to get sick. It is because germs of nails cause infection in the mouth or body. They can cause gastrointestinal infection leading to abdominal pain and diarrhea. Extreme nail biting can cause infection paronychia. It also damages the skin around the nails.

Why is it hard to stop biting nails?

It is hard to stop nail biting because the victim feels happiness and satisfaction in doing this. Nail biting may be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In which you know what you are doing but can’t stop it. It is also termed as BFRB-Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour. You repeat it again and again as a habit.

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