Nail biting is a common habit that affects people of all ages. Often starts in childhood, nail biting continues to adulthood because it becomes habitual.

Stress and boredom are the major reasons why people bite their nails. Frustration and loneliness are emotional triggers of nail biting. This habit can also be a symptom of psychological condition such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Many children who often bite their nails have other psychiatric disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), separation anxiety or bed wetting.

More than its behavioural and emotional symptoms, frequent nail biting can do more harm to your health. Here are the reasons why you should nix the bad habit.

  1. It can lead to disease-causing bacteria.
    Nails are breeding ground for bacteria like salmonella and E.coli. Whenever you bite your nails, these bacteria transfer to your mouth and other parts of the body, leading to infections. Your fingernails may actually be twice as dirty as your fingers. They are difficult to maintain its cleanliness, making them culprits for transfer of infectious organisms.
  1. It can cause nail infections.
    Nail biters are prone to develop paronychia, a skin infection that occurs around your nails. As you bite your nails, bacteria, yeast and other microorganisms pass through tiny tears or abrasions, leading to swelling, redness and pus around your nail. According to American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), bacterial infections caused by nail biting are one of the most common problems of the nails.
  1. It can develop warts due to HPV infections.
    Warts on your fingers caused by human papillomavirus or HPV are common ill-effects of chronic nail biting. These warts can easily spread to your mouth and lips as you bite your nails.
  1. It brings dental problems.
    Nail biting can disrupt proper dental occlusion or the manner that your upper and lower teeth come together when you close your mouth.  This makes your teeth shift out of their proper position, become misshapen, wear down prematurely and become weakened if you bite your nails over time.
  1. It impairs your quality of life.
    Recent study found that people who are chronic nail biters has significantly higher quality of life impairment than those who do not. The intensity of impairment heightens with time spent on nail biting, the number of fingernails involved as well as those who have visible nail abnormalities. Tension when trying to resist biting their nails, suffer due to nail biting or nail eating behaviours negatively influenced quality of life. In addition, nail biting affects the appearance of your fingernails that trigger anxiety and stress.
  1. It gets you painful hangnails.
    Biting your nails aggravates dry skin, making peeling worse and leading to hangnails. Most nail biters use their teeth to peel off hangnails, leading to a tear that is long and deep.
  1. It causes ingrown nails.
    Biting your nails can cause ingrown nails. It also brings swelling, redness and pain that you have to deal with. If it becomes worst, it can cause infection, which can even require surgery.
  1. It can lead to colds.
    Whenever you bite your nails, you are exposing yourself to germs that cause colds and flu viruses. It can also lead to serious illness such as hepatitis.

Here are some tips to quit this gross habit of nail biting.

  1. Keep your nails short. It will make you realize that you have less nail to bite.
  2. Get regular manicures. Spending money to make your nails look attractive would help to cease the bad habit of biting them.
  3. Coat your nails with a bitter tasting nail polish. The nasty taste will discourage you from biting.
  4. Do alternative techniques to manage your stress. Try yoga, meditation, deep breathing or squeezing a ball to de-stress.
  5. Wear gloves or put self-adhesive bandages on the tips of your fingers so your nails won’t be accessible to bite.
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