Nail biting, or if you want to get fancy, “onychophagia,” is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety and stress. It often happens completely unconsciously. However, this compulsion has some pretty brutal consequence like transmitting bacterial infections, exposure to colds and the flu, and making your nails look like they went through a blender.
This compulsion is every manicurist’s worst nightmare. And like any habit that provides you with relief and distraction, it can be pretty hard to beat. Here are 5 recommended ways to try and beat this ugly habit (and my thoughts on them):
1. Replace It With A Good Habit
Psychology Today recommends that you replace nail biting with something really fun like chewing gum or…wait for it…eating a carrot! I think they misunderstood the definition of good on this one. While replacing the habit may work in the short term, this practice is unsustainable. Unless you’re just really obsessed carrots.
2. Apply Weird Smelling Liquids
You can buy this stuff on Amazon for cheap. But after reading the reviews, I am fairly certain it is only viable for very small children. If you are a functioning adult who bites their nails, what is the likelihood that you are going to paint something on your nails that is described as “tastes like a**” on the internet? Zero. Unless you are under age 5 and live with your mom, avoid this method.
3. Get A Manicure
Many people pick the imperfections in their nails, creating a never ending cycle of biting. A manicure makes you hands look nice and may prevent your nails from being an afternoon snack.
4. Perform An Opposite Response
You can’t bite your nails if your hands are under your lap or clenched in fists. This option works in the short term, but you also can’t do your job in any of these positions.
5. Cultivate Awareness
Now here is an idea I can get behind. We create the majority of our bad habits because we need an outlet for our stress and anxiety. The first step to really quitting is to identify the triggers that lead you to bite your nails. Every time you catch yourself doing it, write down what you were doing and what you were thinking about. Keeping a journal (or a note on your iphone) is amazing for this. You will be shocked at the patterns you find! Seeing patterns in your stress will not only make you more aware, but help you implement strategies that are perfect for your stressful situation.