Up to 50% of adults habitually bite their nails. Nail nibbling is one of many body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs), including cheek chewing and cuticle picking. Learn more about your BFRB, and how to bank on breaking the habit.
The Reason for the Ritual
BFRBs can happen anytime, anywhere. Some people bite because of boredom—the act keeps the body occupied. Others do it during times of stress or anxiety. But many don’t realize anymore what cues the behavior or what reward is being realized.
The Bad in Biting
Biting habits come with scary side effects (besides social stigma). Chronic biters are more likely to develop bruxism, according to the National Academy of General Dentistry. Bruxism is the unintentional grinding and clenching of teeth. It can cause headaches, jaw pain and sensitive teeth. It can also result in a misaligned bite.
When you pick at your nails, cuticles, cheeks or lips, germs sneak into the tiny tears, making the area prone to infection. Chewing the inside of your cheeks, for example, can cause canker sores, making tasks like talking and eating extremely painful.
Breaking Bad (Habits)
The first step to stopping is to take notice. The second your finger floats to your mouth… write it down! Tracking the situations and feelings over time will help you find patterns.
Second, find something else to do instead when the urge strikes. Chew gum, take a quick walk around the office or house, or squeeze a stress ball It will redirect or replace the urge to nibble.
Before you bite, remind yourself of a reward you’ve planned once you’ve kicked the habit.