How to Stop Biting Nails – Finding the Real Reason We do it

How to Stop Biting Nails – Finding the Real Reason We do it

This has been my longest running addiction. I would bite the hell out of them until they bled, until I would reach satisfaction. But why would I do it? I think the answer might be the best way on how to stop biting nails forever.

Biting Nails, Sucking on Pacifiers and Drinking from Bottles

My first addiction was my bottle. Well it went between my bottle and my pacifier and it was hell (I guess) trying to break me from them. My mother and I went to stay with my aunt for the night and she said enough was enough. It was a LONG night to say the least. I cried and whined for my bottle until I fell asleep, but in the morning when I asked for it and didn’t get it, I was fine.

Fast forward a couple years and I started biting my nails. A few family members did it, maybe that’s how I learned, but why did they do it? Was there a connection in the sense of comfort that I got from having my pacifier or eating from the bottle and then now biting my nails? Were they trying to self soothe or just bored as hell?

Self-Control, the Ultimate Pacifier

If I really break it down, I mainly used to bite on my nails in times of high stress and boredom. Actually, I have a tendency to touch my face all the time but didn’t realize it until recently.

I have always had trouble with my weight and biting my nails. I had passed out at school one day, so my mother took me to the doctor’s office.  They noticed I bit my nails and my weight and attributed my passing out to my weight.  Mom was told if I could stop biting my nails, I won’t have the problem with my weight anymore. Um, OK but why? They weren’t really specific, but I can only assume now that I had an oral fixation or a nervous habit.

Sickness and Infection

Could you imagine how many surfaces we touch each day? If I really think about it in a normal day:

  • Driving to work, touching the radio and steering wheel
  • Stopping for gas, using the gas pump, paying the clerk inside and touching the countertop
  • Walking into my building at work, touching the front door, touching the walkway railing going up the stairs
  • Sitting at my desk and biting the hell out of my nails

Yeah, if you think about it that way, um gross!

What stopped me this time was a really big light was shone on what I was doing, indirectly. Unfortunately, my mother-in-law was rushed to the hospital a month ago. She was complaining about a terrible headache the night before, and in the morning she was unresponsive. She was then rushed to the hospital.

She was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, a highly contagious and very dangerous sickness. When visiting her in the hospital, we wore masks and had to use hand sanitizer when we touched her and going in and out of the room. I would never wish that on anyone, for two days she didn’t speak coherent sentences, didn’t know who we were and wasn’t the person she was usually. My husband and I went to their home and bleached the entire house; not knowing what surfaces may have been contaminated. Since then, I haven’t bitten my nails.

Distraction

Do you know what it’s like to be in a large space, but there are so many people around you, you are still overwhelmed? You hear a lot of noise; people walking around talking and laughing, passing by you too close for comfort. This happens to me a lot. I don’t know if it’s too much stimulation or I get uncomfortable with noise and people seemingly invading my space. Either way, I get antsy. As a result, I get nervous.

When I get uncomfortable, I get nervous. This is when I want to bite my nails, touch my face and I feel like I am out of control. By using your 5 senses, you can distract yourself. This was a great tool given by my therapist.

  • Choose one of the senses to focus on first. I choose sight. Take 10-15 seconds to really look at 5 objects around you, the picture on the wall, the coffee cup, the stapler on your desk, one of the icons on your computer, the reminder note you wrote to yourself.

 

  • Then choose the next sense, I choose hearing. Focus on each noise independently for 10-15 seconds. I hear a voice of a coworker, the clicking of a clock, the hum of your computer, the clicking of someone typing not too far from you.

 

  • Continue on with the remaining five senses touch, smell and taste. How do you feel now?

You may not have anxiety or trouble coping with activities around you. A great alternative to nail biting that I have used are applying nail polish, band aids or the No Bite nail polish found in most drug stores. By the end of the day everything was peeled off, but I wouldn’t bite while they were on.

Moral of the Story

So, biting your nails may be a disgusting habit, but I don’t think it’s just about the act. What is the reason why we do it and what can we do to change that? Just because a family member got sick and scared me into not doing it, I think there is more to it. Life is a process and if you try to learn more about yourself, maybe you will learn more about why you do the things you do.

Please share below if you have any other distractions that have helped or any recommendations for coping with anxiety. As always, take care!

Kerry Brauner

One thought on “How to Stop Biting Nails – Finding the Real Reason We do it

  1. I liked this article. While I’m not a nail biter I do get anxious or nervous about things and it helped me to recognize some of those things I do and know that I can be mindful about them. There were some good pointers on things you could do to take your mind off of your anxieties. In looking at your website I could see that you have a passion for helping others. Keep it up. I enjoyed your website.

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