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Why do some people bite their fingernails?

What makes people want to bite their fingernails? I used to do it myself, but I stopped a couple years ago and now I don't know why I ever did it in the first place.

5197 day(s) ago

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Nail-biting is scientifically known as onychophagia. It is largely done out of habit and initially started as a way to relieve stress. Nail-biting is the most common of what are called “nervous habits” that also include hair-twisting, hair pulling, grinding teeth, and picking at the skin. Many people who bite their nails are completely unaware that they are doing it, as they are preoccupied with another activity at the same time, such as watching TV or reading. Nail-biting doesn’t have to stop at the nails. It often includes the surrounding soft tissues of the fingers and the cuticles.

Nail-biting is a nervous habit done most often by children. As people age, they lose the habit. It is estimated that about 50% of children from ages 10 – 18 bite their nails at some time or another. The highest rates are from teenagers currently undergoing puberty. The numbers drop off quite a bit from ages 18 – 22, and by age 30 nearly everyone stops biting their nails.

Some doctors include nail-biting in a group of disorders called body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRB). Treatments for nail-biting are focused on either stress management or avoidance techniques. Keeping the nails trimmed prevents having any nail available to bite. If nail-biting persists, nail polish can help prevent it. Special, horribly tasting, nail polishes are made for just such a purpose. Two brands are called Control-It and Thum. Other treatments include wearing gloves or substituting another activity requiring the use of the hands.

Although nail-biting can cause soreness, inflammation, and bleeding, doctors say no long-term effects are caused by the disorder. Once the habit has stopped, nails will return to normal as they grow back.

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