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Nail Biting Causes, Effects, Infection, Prevention, and Remedies to Stop

Why do we bite our nails? Have you ever ask yourself such a question? How do I stop chewing my fingers? Is nail biting obsessive compulsive disorder? Can you get skin cancer from biting your nails?

There are so many rhetoric questions about nail biting but don’t worry since the article outline some causes, effects, remedies and treatment for nail biting.

Nail biting definition – meaning

Nail biting refers to a habit where someone keeps on biting his or her fingernails with no reason. Nail biting is known for ruining the appearance of your hands, could be unhygienic and can hurt if you take it too far.

Nail biting has a medical term known as onychophagia and it is classified further by Psychiatrists as an impulse control problem alongside things like obsessive compulsive disorder.

There are a lot of theories about nail biting but they are not scientifically proven such as under-feeding or over-feeding, breast-feeding too long or problematic relationship with your mother.

Nail biting causes, remedies, effects
Nail biting causes, remedies, effects

Nail biting causes – why do I bite my nails

Nail biting reasons include:

  • Anxiety and boredom are known to trigger nail biting in some people. The habit definitely seems to reduce anxiety in some people, whereas boredom and loneliness can be the factor in other people who are not stressed at all.
  • It is seen as a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which is an extreme way of trying to deal with underlying anxiety.
  • In younger children, it could be as a symptom of more widespread behavioral issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), separation anxiety disorder, and bed-wetting.

Note: Regularly biting your nails and cuticles can leave fingers red and sore, with the area of skin around the nails bleeding and occasionally becoming infected.

Nail biting effects

Nail biting may actually be harmful to you beyond the emotional effects. Some of the harmful effects include:

Bitten nails
Bitten nails

Disease causing bacteria

Bacteria thrive well around our fingernails such that as you bite your nails, those bacteria easily transfer into your mouth and the rest of your body, where they may lead to infections.

Nail Infections

If you happen to have the habit of nail biting, then you are susceptible to paronychia, a skin infection that occurs around your nails. As you chew your nails, bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms can enter through tiny tears or abrasions, leading to swelling, redness, and pus around your nail.

Warts Due to HPV Infections

Warts on your fingers caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV, are common among chronic nail biters. These warts can easily spread to your mouth and lips as you bite your nails

Dental Problems

Nail biting can interfere with proper dental occlusion, or the manner in which upper and lower teeth come together when you close your mouth. This may result to repositioning of your teeth into an order that can cause harm to your tongue while chewing or eating.

May result into an impaired quality of life

According to studies, the level of impairment rises with time spent on nail biting, the number of involved fingernails and those who report visible nail abnormalities.

Tension when trying to resist nail biting, suffering due to nail biting or nail-eating behavior also negatively influenced quality of life.

Nail biting infection

This form of infection is known as paronychia which infects the skin that surrounds a toenail or fingernail. The condition might be acute or chronic depending with the level of infection.

Acute infection causes throbbing pain, redness, warmth and swelling in the skin around a nail. In some instances, it may result into formation of pus.

Chronic infection causes less dramatic symptoms than an acute paronychia though the area around the nail appears to be tender, red and mildly swollen; with missing cuticle.

Although a chronic paronychia may take several weeks to heal, the skin and nail usually will return to normal eventually.

Nail biting while pregnant

Hormonal changes during pregnancy are known for causing your nails grows faster, which is terrific for some women. While for other women, their nails become weaker and thin.

Pregnancy is also associated with emotional stress and anxiety that may trigger nail biting in order to relieve you from such situation.

Nail biting while pregnant is usually a temporal condition that ends after the first trimester or after the birth of the child.

Nail biting prevention – how to stop nail biting

Here are methods on how to prevent nail biting habit:

Wear fake nails

Fake nails not only look great, they also do a great job of preventing you from nibbling away at your nails. These remedies can be a bit awkward, but they’re extremely effective.

Adopt new habits

This is a little hard but if you happen to let go, then adopt a new habit like humming, finger tapping, gum chewing, or candy eating as a form of creating destruction in case you feel like biting your nails.

Get Relief through Relaxation

For some reason and for some people, nail biting is soothing in the face of stress or worry. If this sounds familiar to you, it may help to use relaxation or stress reduction techniques to overcome the urge to bite.

Nail biting home remedies

Some of the home remedies that help to get rid of nail biting include:

Wear Gloves

Gloves work as a good barrier method that can help you stop biting your nails. You’ll be more motivated to quit biting if you’re writing or doing something else that is particularly tough to do while wearing gloves.

Trim the Nails

When you keep your nails relatively short, there is less left to bite. Trimming your nails will also keep them looking neat and tidy.

Frequent Manicure

Treat yourself to a professional manicure as often as you can to help you break the habit of nail biting. A professional manicurist can apply acrylic nails over your natural nails, or add nail décor like jewels, patterns and textures.

Use of Garlic

This is another natural ingredient that can help you in the battle to fight nail biting. Many people dislike garlic’s strong taste and aroma.

As garlic is a natural antiseptic, it will also strengthen your nails and keep infections at bay. You can use both raw garlic and garlic oil.

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References
  1. Anxiety and Compulsive Nail Biting: http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/symptoms/nail-biting
  2. Why Do People Bite Their Nails? https://www.bustle.com/articles/125680-why-do-people-bite-their-nails-6-things-to-know-about-the-habit
  3. Slightly Horrifying Facts That Will Stop You Biting Your Nails: https://www.buzzfeed.com/mirandalarbi/facts-everyone-who-bites-their-nails-needs-to-know?utm_term=.ox4eXQojeA#.jvbKNJ21Kj
  4. Paronychia (nail infection): http://www.webmd.boots.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/paronychia-nail-infection
  5. Is it bad to bite your finger nails during pregnancy? https://www.babycenter.com/400_is-it-bad-to-bite-your-finger-nails-during-pregnancy_10512243_238.bc

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