Nail biting, which is medically known as onychophagia, is an oral compulsive habit that is quite common in children and adults. Nail biting can morph from a simple habit to a serious problem that is difficult to stop.
Factors that can contribute to nail-biting include; boredom, stress, loneliness, anxiety, and frustration.
Nail biting could also be a symptom of psychological disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), bed-wetting, and separation anxiety disorder.
Negative consequences of nail-biting include;
- damage to the nails, cuticles, and surrounding skin.
- could also damage the teeth.
- embarrassing nails which could lead to stress and anxiety.
- exposure to germs and infections from your nails.
It is also worthy to note that nail biting is socially unacceptable and may give others wrong impression about you.
Here are some tips and good practices, to consider, when dealing with nail-biting;
- You could carry a bottle of water with you to sip instead of biting your nails.
- You could use visualization to visualize that you have healthy and strong nails.
- You could also chew gum to help reduce the likelihood of biting your nails.
- Try to minimize stress and anxiety in your life as they increase the urge and likelihood to bite your nails.
Below are various ways to help you stop biting your nails;
1. Wear Artificial Nails
Artificial nails are the permanent cure to nail-biting. Trying to bite them can be likened to gnawing through a toothpaste tube. Even if you manage to bite it off, it’s not something you want to swallow. Examples of the artificial nails in the market include wraps, acrylics, and press-on nails. You can also use them to cover the already bitten nails in a stylish way.
2. Keep Your Nails Short
Since the nails are continually growing, you should trim them on a regular basis. The idea behind this remedy is simple; when the nails are short, you’ll have nothing to bite. You should also smooth them out with an emery board and then apply nail filler on the edges. Make sure the nails have no sharp corners that can tempt you to bite. This remedy requires that you keep some clippers in your bag. Besides stopping the biting habit, your nails will look neat and tidy.
3. Bitter Gourd Juice (Bitter Melon)
Bitter gourd is widely cultivated in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. It has a bitter taste which gives you a ‘yuck’ face when you try to bite the fingers. It will deter you from biting your nails, especially when sleeping. Simply extract the juice and apply it on your nails. Since it’s a natural herb, it can also be used by children to stop the habit.
4. Regular Manicure
A professional manicurist will give your nails a different texture or color. You should have your nails painted such that you want to make them look beautiful. Add some patterns and décor like jewels. Sometimes the cost of the manicure can deter you from biting them. You may also want to finish your manicure with a shellac polish or gel colors to encourage your nails to grow. No matter how short your nails are, keep them neat and well-manicured.
5. Neem Oil
Besides its bitter taste, neem oil has antiseptic qualities which help to ward off infections and promotes the healing of the cuticles. So, if you unconsciously put your fingers in your mouth, the oil would discourage you from biting them. To stop nail biting, put a cotton ball in natural organic neem oil, rub it on your nails and let it dry on its own.
6. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper has a spicy heat taste that can deter you from biting nails. However, it’s a bit tricky to use this remedy. You have to keep it away from your eyes and open skin otherwise, it can irritate. You can either apply fresh pepper around the nails or use ointments that have pepper as an ingredient. You should not use this remedy on your children.
Garlic has a strong pungent taste and aroma. It’s also a natural antibiotic, so it would curb any infection and strengthen the nails. All you need is to crush a few garlic cloves, apply the juice on your fingers and then wash off after a few minutes. That way, the lingering garlic taste would be on your nails which help you stop biting your fingernails. If you don’t have fresh garlic, you can use garlic oil.
8. Nail Biting Polish
The anti-nail biting polishes come in many forms. They are odorless and intensely bitter. Furthermore, they contain a special formulation that makes the nails look fresh and healthy. You should go for dark-colored ones because they look bad after attempting to bite your nails. Of course, the bitter taste will help you break the habit. Before you purchase the nail-biting polish, be sure to check the ratings.
9. Wear Gloves
This is probably the simplest yet effective method to stop nail biting. Although this is not the best option during summer months, it’s helpful for children. Most people bite their fingers unconsciously which is tough to do when you have your gloves on. These gloves work as a motivational tool, so you can stop wearing them once you’re sure you’ve stopped the habit. If you choose thin gloves, then the heat would not be an issue.
10. Replace Nail-Biting With A Good Habit
We often bite our nails when we’re depressed, stressed, or bored. To keep your hands away from the mouth, keep them busy through drawing, cooking, knitting, and crocheting. Strive to replace the ‘bad’ habit with something that is related to your hobby. You can also make sure you have something in your pocket to play with. The moment your hands are not busy, you’re likely to go back to your old ways. For children, keep their mind busy by supplying them with coloring materials. Also, you won’t bite your nails if you have a chewing gum in your mouth. It’s a good trick to keep your mouth busy.
11. Don’t Pay Attention When Your Child Is Biting Nails
Most children bite the nails when they want to get their parents’ attention. Simply avoid giving your kids undue attention or commenting on their behavior. However, you can only use this remedy once the child realizes that biting can make the nails ugly.
12. Cover Your Nails With An Adhesive Bandage
To stop nail biting, wrap a bandage around the fingertips as your next fashion trend. You should use the adhesive bandage during the day and then remove it at night. Make sure you use a fresh bandage on a daily basis, especially after taking a shower. Since bandaged nails are not attractive, that’s a motivator to stop nail biting. This method could take you at least three months to break the habit, so you have to be patient. You may want to start with one nail before you proceed to others.
13. Get Help From Friends
You should not be afraid to ask for help from your friends or relatives. Let them alert you the moment you start chewing your nails. And if you manage to grow your nails without biting them, don’t be afraid to show off. You can also take some photos of your new nails. It’s also a good idea to join a social group where people are trying to stop the habit. This method will give 95% chance to break the vice.
14. Identify The Triggers
Take a moment and analyze what makes you bite your nails. The most common triggers include stress, anxiety, and boredom. After knowing what triggers your nail biting, take actions to curtail the triggers. Make sure you’re more relaxed by taking deep breaths or meditating for a moment. For children, fear can contribute to the habit so you should be mindful of their behavior. Just by knowing what makes you bite your nails, the problem is half solved.
15. Maintain A Healthy Diet Plan
Lack of magnesium and calcium can contribute to nail-biting. To restore these essential minerals, you should consume whole grains, liver, soy, asparagus, onions, garlic, cucumbers, grapes, salmon, and green leafy vegetables. Additionally, eat foods rich in proteins to speed up the nail growth. A healthy diet will also help to keep your nails shiny and pliable.
16. Have A Nail File Nearby
Whenever you find yourself biting nails, you should file them. You must pay special attention to corners by ensuring there are no sharp edges. When you keep a nail file in your purse or office desk, you can easily fix a tear on your nail. If the nails are in great shape, you should focus on how to keep them that way. This remedy requires discipline and a willingness to stop the habit. Otherwise, it won’t work.
17. White Vinegar
White vinegar has an acrid taste which will immediately alert you when you start biting the nails. Just soak your nails in vinegar and allow them to dry naturally. Although it may not offer any health benefit, it will help to break the unhealthy habit. The bitter taste is harmless to toddlers. You may also want to buy nail products that contain white vinegar as an ingredient.
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