How can I address my habit of biting nails?

Doctor's Answers (1)

Dr Beng Yeong Ng

"Psychiatrist with over 20 years of experience"

The first step to overcoming the habit or problem is to gain awareness of it and to make the decision to want to quit the habit. Think how embarrassing it can be if a celebrity were to bite his or her nails at a public place and people were to take a picture of it and circulate it.

The second step is to identify the triggers that would make you want to bite your nails. Common triggers that patients and friends told me are:

  • boredom
  • not paying attention
  • feeling stressed
  • anxious
  • unhappy
  • need to vent
  • ruminating on a problem
  • ignoring anger or feelings about an issue

You have to think about how to deal with those triggers. For example, many people feel anxious about attending meetings or making presentations. It will be good to learn a relaxation technique so that you can learn to calm yourself down. If you need to vent, consider talking with a friend or expressing your emotions in a diary.

The third step is to confide in your best friend and get him or her to help you. For instance, if he/she finds you putting your hand into your mouth, he/she can gently pull it down for you. Over time, you may not need such external reminders to quit the habit.

The fourth step is to trim your nails regularly; if the nails are short, it would be harder for you to bite them.

Fifth, consider spending money on a manicure. If you spend money to maintain the looks of your nails, you will hesitate when the urge to bite them surfaces.

Sixth, think of your teeth which may chip off when you bite on your nails. You put a lot of effort into brushing your teeth and keeping them white and presentable, so you do not want to spoil your smile.

Seventh, constantly reward yourself when you are making progress.

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