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10 tricks to stop biting the nails (onicofagia)

10 tricks to stop biting the nails (onicofagia)

July 14, 2024

There is often a belief that eating nails is merely associated with the nerves of the moment or simply a bad habit. But nevertheless, This terrible habit may be due to deeper psychological reasons and it is often an indicator of some trauma that occurred during childhood.

The habit of eating your nails, also known as Onychophagia, it has quite serious repercussions for the health, it is not a problem only aesthetic. In the fingers and the nails we lodge an endless number of microorganisms, some of them pathogenic, that in contact with the mouth can produce an infection. Moreover, biting your nails can damage them irreparably as well as damage our teeth and gums.

But do not panic, with a little will and skill and With the ten tips that we explain below, you will be able to show off some perfect and healthy nails .

Why do we bite our nails?

The nails, basically, are composed of dead cells coated with keratin and are essential for many functions in humans. We even use them to play musical instruments, but obviously they have much more daily and necessary uses for our day to day .

Causes of onytophagy

Some experts in the field propose that the habit of biting the nails can originate during the earliest childhood, babies and young children have the habit of putting their fingers to their mouths. Biting the nails is not considered as a disease but as a psychological pathology, which, if it becomes an irrepressible and compulsive habit, should be treated medically.

The causes of onychophagia can be divided into two groups:

1. External causes

One of the recurring explanations for onychophagia is anxiety and stress produced by personal, labor, economic, emotional or conjugal problems, nervousness before exams ... These are usually more benevolent factors, since with willpower and awareness of the problem, it is relatively simple to abandon the habit and control it.

2. Internal causes

Is about emotional imbalances and alterations of the nervous system produced by traumas. They can be family maladjustments, abuse, humiliation, low self-esteem, guilt and the need for self-punishment. The habit is prolonged over time and becomes chronic, sometimes the behavior is so acute that it can lead to self-injurious behavior .

There is a very widespread belief, that says that biting the nails is a slight problem, since anyway they grow back soon. But beware! the onicofagia can be worse than commonly thought and produce permanent damage .

Consequences and effects of eating your nails

The hands provide us with a multitude of information about the person, they are a reflection of health and safety in itself .

Well-maintained hands convey a good impression on others. That is to say, biting the nails has connotations of health, emotional-psychological, aesthetic and social.

1. Consequences on health and aesthetics

In the nails are huge amounts of germs of all kinds. These, when coming into contact with the mouth, can penetrate our body and produce some kind of disease .

Lesions on the fingers and buds can cause bacterial or viral infections. Further, the fingers can be deformed and there is a risk of losing the nail permanently . Other consequences include chronic inflammation of the fingers and the appearance of caries due to damage to the enamel of the teeth.

2. Emotional consequences

Another kind of negative effects of eating your nails is the complex and the shame (that provokes, in the last term, anxiety) by the appearance of the hands and that can interfere in interpersonal relationships.

This point is also related to a low level of self-esteem, feelings of sadness and inability to control compulsive behaviors.

3. Social consequences

The person who eats the nails may believe that it is rejected by society. As well can present certain d Difficulties in personal and sentimental relationships .

Labor problems: rejection in job interviews for reasons of hygiene or aesthetics depending on the position.

The ten tips you should know not to bite your nails

How you can see, Leaving this habit unhealthy can have countless benefits for your health, as well as psychological, emotional and social .

Next I will explain Ten great tips so you do not eat your nails . They are very easy tricks that do not require special products, you just have to want it and put your will.

1. Be aware of the problem

The first thing you should do is detect which situations are causing you stress or insecurity and that activate the habit of biting you , feel or scratch the nails and that leads directly to put them in the mouth.

This is to identify the particular moments that lead you to this behavior, for example, by having to interact socially or prepare for an academic test, the moments before a job interview ... In the same way, you must identify which activity or group of them avoid this behavior and keep your hands busy, they must be things that are to your liking, for example doing sports, crafts, playing a musical instrument, writing ... This way you will mitigate the anxiety and avoid the compulsive behavior of biting the ones.

2. Licorice Chew

Having your mouth busy chewing licorice root is a good way to combat the habit of biting your nails . Do this especially in moments that cause you anxiety. Accustomed to carry this remedy always with you. Once you have abandoned the bad habit of Onychophagia, you can rest and leave the licorice at home.

3. Chew gum

Similarly, It is very effective to chew gum every time you feel the need to take your fingers to your mouth . In this way you will avoid biting your nails while you refresh your breath and exercise the muscles of your jaws avoiding wrinkles.

4. Use Aloe Vera

There are specific bitter products to avoid this habit, however, why are you going to spend money to have what you need at home?

Aloe Vera has innumerable properties for health , but it certainly does not taste very good. Cut a stalk of Aloe Vera in half, you will see that it has a transparent content similar to the snail slime, leave it in the refrigerator one night and you will see that this drool has taken on a reddish color due to oxidation, which produces its bitterness . Afterwards, apply it on the nails until it dries. Every time you put your nails in your mouth you will have a very bitter and unpleasant taste that will surely take away the desire to do it again. In addition, Aloe Vera has antibacterial and healing properties, so it is ideal to avoid infections due to injuries from biting your nails and to accelerate the process of regeneration of these.

5. Self control

With this exercise of self-control you will be able to master the impulse to eat your nails:

  • Bring a finger towards your mouth, stop when it is two inches from your lips. Stay away . Repeat this action several times decreasing the distance more and more.
  • Insert the nail between the teeth without biting, resist a little time, remove it . Repeat this gesture increasing more and more the time. Practice this exercise 5 minutes a day and you will see that it works.

6. False nails

Maybe this is the most expensive solution of all but it's worth it, it's about Cover your nails with other synthetic ones such as acrylics . It will prevent you from damaging your own nails while allowing their growth.

7. Band-aids

Put some bandages on your nails for a month, replacing them from time to time . This is that you can admire how they grow healthy and shiny after a while, without biting them.

8. Practice a hobby

Keeping busy doing a hobby or hobby that is to your liking will keep the nails of your teeth away for longer.

Any activity of your interest is appropriate, It is very important that it be of your pleasure since this will dispel your desire to take your nails to your mouth . The crafts are highly recommended because they keep your hands busy, especially if it is to work with materials such as clay to make pottery, since it keeps your hands dirty, in the same way it is also interesting painting.

9. Wear gloves

If you find that the gloves are good for you, use them, especially in winter . It is an infallible way to avoid biting your nails.

10. Congratulate yourself for your advances

Do not hesitate to celebrate your progress as you progress. You will see how the people around you give an account and congratulate you , this will encourage you to continue keeping your nails healthy and beautiful.

In conclusion...

With willpower and the advice you've learned, I'm sure you'll soon have perfect nails. If you see that you have a lot of trouble quitting, you can go to a trusted psychologist.

Bibliographic references:

  • Baeza, J.C. ; Balaguer, G. and others (2008). Hygiene and prevention of anxiety. Madrid. Editorial Díaz de Santos.
  • Burns, D. (2011). Feel good. A therapy against depressions. Paidós editorial
  • Fioenza, A. (2007). 99 strategies to overcome fear, anxiety and phobias. Barcelona. RBA Publishers.


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