Nail biting is a fairly common habit, but it can indicate a hidden trait of nervousness in a person. It is estimated that almost a third of all children have the tendency to bite nails. However this habit goes away as they grow up. But if it persists and affects a person’s normal life, the issue needs to be addressed. Almost 15% of adults also seem to be affected by this habit.
Psychologists suggest that nail biting is more to do with a person’s state of mental health than a problem concerning proper etiquette or manners. The problem of nail biting has been classified as an impulse control disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.
Most parents try to break the habit in their kids using various means. If children do not stop the habit, they sometimes try to make them feel ashamed of their practice. However, this could hurt the child and make them continue the practice in secret. Children can often suffer in silence if their parents do not help them to overcome the disorder using a more positive approach.
Parents are usually concerned about this habit since it is unhygienic, and rightfully so. Nails can be a breeding ground for bacteria, and biting nails could introduce a lot of bacteria into the mouth. Teeth and gums could also be damaged by this practice. The nail matrix could also be damaged if the person bites deep into the nail bed. This can cause permanent scars on the nails.
Nail biters can change their behavior with practice. They first need to understand that they have a problem that needs to be corrected. Without that conviction, there would normally be no initiative to change. Once they make up their minds to change, they can make behavior modifications to their old ways of coping with any given situation.
People can try to keep their minds busy with an alternate activity whenever they find the tendency to start biting their nails. Slathering bitter-tasting sprays on the nails could also discourage the habit. They should be conscious of the triggers that induce them to start chewing on their nails.
A consultation with a psychologist or physician could help. If the habit is stress-related, the causes of stress and ways to reduce it could be explored. Each person’s condition could be different, and the solution to each person’s problem would also be different. But with persistent therapy and a resolve to kick the habit, the problem of nail biting can be surely overcome.