Saturday, August 20, 2011

How To Stop Biting Your Nails

Why Do I Bite My Nails?
Forget your hands for a minute; what's going on in your head?
Initially you might think there's no “why” when it comes to nail biting. You just started doing it one day and kept doing it until it became a habit. That might be true for some nail biters, but for many the real causes are things like boredom, hunger, stress, fear or anxiety. We tend to start biting nails whenever confronted with a stressful event or moment.

Maybe the first time you bit your nails was also the first day of school or perhaps it was a more serious traumatic event. Biting your nails was something physical you could do to relieve the stress, fear or worry you were probably feeling. Discovering the motivation for biting your nails, can lead to finding more constructive ways of dealing with your feelings. Think about where are you when you bite them most? What are you doing? How do you feel, both physically and mentally? If you see why you're biting, you may find ways of dealing with it. You won't always be able to remove the source of your stress, so find something else to do. Talking to somebody about your feelings can help.

Nail biting isn't an easy habit to quit. If you're tired of the stubs, bleeding, infections and pain, I recommend the following tips to help promote normal, beautiful nail growth.

1 Keep Your Nails Groomed
For some nail biters, it's about obsessively “fixing” problems with their nails. One solution is to personally keep your nails groomed. If you can afford to get a professional manicure at least a few times a month, spending the money may function as a deterrent. Polishing your nails with colored or clear polish can also help because you won't want to ruin the work. You could even consider getting fake nails or tips (an acrylic or gel full set). This will give your real nails a chance to grow, and the added expense might be enough to make you leave your nails alone entirely.

2 Apply a Deterrent
At the pharmacy, you might have seen creams, oils or nail polishes specifically designed to stop nail biting. Since nail biting is an unconscious habit, the reasoning goes, you’ll be startled into awareness when you taste the nasty solution on your fingers and stop what you’re doing. Many of these products are also marketed to stop thumb sucking.

Ingredients for these products are typically hot, such as cayenne pepper extract, or bitter, such as Bitrex or denatonium saccharide. The latter is a nontoxic chemical compound often added to toxic products such as antifreeze to discourage children and animals from drinking it.

Some nail biters have successfully kicked the habit this way, while others get used to the taste or are too disgusted by it to keep it on their nails. Some people try other deterrents such as applying stickers or bandages to their fingers, or wearing a bracelet, as a reminder not to bite them. In winter a pair of gloves is useful. Dentists can also fit you for a mouth guard if your nail biting is seriously damaging your teeth.

3 Distract Yourself
Once you become aware of your nail biting habit, you could try directing that energy into a different action. For some people, that means keeping their hands busy so they don’t have a chance to unconsciously put them in their mouths. A stress ball – basically a little rubber ball that you can squeeze in the palm of your hand – might help. Whenever you find yourself starting to nibble a nail, take out the stress ball instead. It's not quite the same, but if you stick with it, the urge to bite your nails may disappear.

If you’d rather do something more productive with your hands, consider taking up a hobby that involves constant handwork like drawing or painting. Try also distracting your mouth. Eat something healthy (like carrot sticks) or keep a stick of chewing gum handy for those weak moments.

4 Seek Treatment
If your nail biting is extreme – meaning you regularly bleed, have lost nails or have permanent damage due to your habit – it may be time to seek help. Onychophagia is actually part of a group of behaviors that fall under the diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD). If your nails are severely damaged or you suspect you may have an OCD, consult your doctor or a psychiatrist. They may suggest medication, therapy or a combination of both.

5 Take Pictures
Before you quit nail biting, take some photos of your scungy, chewed up nails while they look their worst. Once you quit and your nails finally look great, take some more photos as a “before and after” comparison and a graphic reminder of why you’re never going back!

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