How to stop biting your nails

Nail biting usually begins in childhood and continues into adulthood. While nail biting is a common problem, it can be caused by many behaviors, from stress to anxiety.

Although the behavior seems easy to stop, many people who try to break the habit are unsuccessful. Instead, not only do they experience unsightly nails, but they can also cause damage and soreness to the skin around the nail bed.

This article will discuss behaviors that lead to nail biting, from anxiety to mental health disorders, how to avoid nail biting, and when to see a healthcare provider.

What causes nail biting?

biting your nails, or Onychomyopathy, also known as pathological modification.It can also be certain obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) behaviors such as Trichotillomania (pulls hair) and skin fetish (skin tingling). Nail biting can also be caused by stress and anxiety, boredom and mental health disorders.

stress and anxiety

The above behaviors may be triggered by events that cause stress and anxiety. Unlike physical reactions that can cause a fight-or-flight response, such as a racing heart or hyperventilation, nail biting is a way to release stress and anxiety because it feels good.


A sort of scientific american An article published in 2015 pointed out that stress is not the only cause of OCD, rather, boredom and frustration can also trigger the need to do something rather than do nothing. This behavior can be caused by a perfectionist personality.

mental health disorder

American Psychiatric Association Fifth Edition Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) states that nail biting is a body-centered repetitive behavior disorder listed under Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, OCD is when an individual has “unwanted thoughts, thoughts, or feelings (obsessions) that force them to do something repeatedly (compulsions).”

This type of behavior disrupts a person’s daily activities and personal interactions. no Acting on a compulsion can lead to more pain than relief. Feel good and release stress during compulsive nail biting.

Other diseases that nail biters may have include:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (when a person provokes and disobeys authority figures)
  • separation anxiety disorder
  • Tourette’s Syndrome


Some research suggests that if you’re a nail biter, it’s likely that you picked up the habit from your parents, not through observation, but genetics.

If the nail biter has OCD, family cluster studies suggest the disorder is genetic; results from twin studies suggest that familiality is partly due to genetics. To date, only three genome-wide linkage studies have been completed, which have provided some evidence but not definitive results.

Side Effects and Risks of Nail Biting

Nail biting has many physical and psychological side effects, including:

  • Damage to the stratum corneum and surrounding skin; redness and soreness
  • Possible bacterial infection in the nail bed and mouth
  • dental problems
  • Self-esteem, shame, depression and other psychological problems
  • interpersonal problems

Chronic, habitual nail biting can disrupt normal nail growth and cause nail deformities. In some cases, excessive nail biting can be caused by obsessive-compulsive disorder.

How to stop biting your nails

To break the nail biting habit or treat chronic nail biting caused by a psychological disorder, several solutions, from clipping the nails to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), may help.

cut them short

The easiest solution is to simply cut your nails short, which may encourage you not to bite your nails. However, if you are constantly stressed and anxious, or have OCD, even short nails may not stop you from biting your nails or chewing your cuticles or nails.

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Frequent manicures or trims

The time and expense invested in a manicure or manicure may be enough to motivate you not to bite your nails. Another option is to wear gloves to prevent nail biting.

keep your hands busy

An easy and effective way to keep your fingers away from your mouth is to keep your hands busy. There are many creative activities you can try to distract from biting your nails, such as:

  • cooking
  • crochet
  • knitting
  • painting
  • Sculpture
  • clay works

use bitter nail polish

You can find bitter-tasting nail polishes at your local pharmacy and apply them to your nails. If you can’t find this type of nail polish, another option is to spray a bitter apple mixture on your hands. You can make it with white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and water.

Manage stress and anxiety

One way to stop biting your nails is to understand what triggers your anxiety, stress, or boredom. If you can’t stop and nail biting becomes more and more habitual, talk to your healthcare provider for a referral to a therapist. Through therapy, you can learn cognitive behavioral therapy methods to identify or modify your behavior. If you have a medical condition, you may need appropriate medication.

When to see a healthcare provider

Occasional nail biting may not require a visit to the doctor, but if your nail bed is infected and the infection has spread to your mouth, you will need to see a healthcare provider for antibiotic treatment. If your nail biting has become unstoppable and is affecting your self-esteem and relationships, ask for a referral to see a therapist.


Nail biting usually begins in childhood and may continue into adulthood. While a common habit, nail biting can be triggered by both stress and anxiety, it can also be an obsessive-compulsive disorder. To kick the habit, you can take benign steps like keeping your hands busy, but if you feel like your habit is out of control, you may want to consider therapy to determine what is triggering the activity.

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While nail biting isn’t a life-threatening habit, it can be painful. If you are a habitual nail biter and want to stop, consider the options provided above. If your habit is causing you more stress, talk to your healthcare provider for a referral to see a therapist.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is nail biting a mental illness?

    According to the American Psychiatric Association, it can be considered an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

  • Will bitten nails go back to normal?

    it depends on. If you bite your nails occasionally, they will grow back normally. But if you’re a habitual nail biter, you could get an infection on the nail bed, and eventually your nails could grow back abnormally.

  • Why can’t I stop biting my nails?

    Excessive stress and anxiety can lead to persistent nail biting. Learn about the triggers that lead to nail biting and take appropriate steps to stop the habit. These might include keeping your hands busy, using bitter nail polish, or cutting your nails short.