How to Stop Biting the Nails in 10 Steps (Fast)

In this article, I will explain how to stop biting your nails with what has worked for me, since I myself have been several years with this bad vice. Therefore, I will not rely on theory, but on pure practice and actions that can also serve you.

You may have tried everything to control the onychophagia and you have not seen results, but with the right actions you can stop eating your nails. The effort will be worth it, since it is a bad habit, almost an addiction, which can produce unpleasant consequences.

It is a habit that often begins in childhood, sometimes in adolescence and may continue into adulthood. Regarding sex there is equality. Although women seem more concerned about the aesthetic problem and seek help more than men.

Some surveys show 45% of children during puberty, 25% of college students and about 10% of adults over 35 bite their nails compulsively.

Why do people eat their nails?

The problem with habits is that you do not realize that you do it because it is routine and you are hardly aware of it. You can eat your nails and not be able to avoid it because you are not aware of it. It is usually anxiety, stress and boredom that causes this habit. 

It is a way to relieve anxiety, and frustration or loneliness can act as triggers. On the other hand, it is possible that genetics could play a role.

It can also be the symptom of a psychological condition such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and children who have attention deficit, defiant disorder or anxiety are more likely to do so.

Consequences of eating nails

Biting your nails can have emotional and physical problems. First, biting nails and cuticles can leave your fingers red and sore. The area surrounding the nails may bleed and become infected.

In addition, bacteria and viruses can pass from your fingers to your mouth and make you more vulnerable to infection. It can also cause a weak or misaligned dentition.

Finally, the appearance can be unsightly, which in turn leads to more anxiety and stress. For adolescents and adults who continue to eat their nails, some techniques have proven effective.

Stop eating your nails step by step: tips and remedies

1-Commitment

If it has taken you many years to try for this bad habit it is probably because you have not committed enough.

You then have to seriously commit yourself to stop biting them. Some advice:  Write down the commitment in a post-it and leave it in a visible place.

Tell it to people nearby. This usually works very well; If you communicate to other people that you want to stop that habit, your commitment will grow.

2-Leverage

I call leverage to reflect and be aware of the consequences that will have to continue with that habit. Will you still have nails ugly? What negative consequences will it continue to bite your nails?

This step is important because it will act as a motivation for the critical moments in which you want to take your fingers to your mouth.

3-Identify the moments of «alert»

With moments of alert I mean those in which it is more likely that you start to bite your nails and it is harder for you to stop.

They are usually:

  • Stressful situations
  • Situations of boredom

Think about what situations you are most likely to start doing. For example: when you sit down to watch TV, when you argue, when you get nervous …

4-Focus on the present moment

It is necessary that you realize that you are in a moment of alert, because it is possible that you go through one, you bite your nails and do not even realize it.

Focusing on the present moment would entail knowing what you are thinking and feeling. You will have the urge to take your hands to your mouth, although you will have to avoid it.

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In this aspect, I recommend mindfulness, psychological ability with innumerable benefits and that will also help you in this task. 

5-Stop eating them

With the identification and experience of the “present moment,” you will have taken a big step because you will be aware of the moment when you are going to eat your nails.

Read How to Overcome Pathological Gambling: 9 Practical Tips.

But now, you have to avoid how to do it. Actually, I think that you can use your creativity here and you do not have to adjust to what I tell you, but I will tell you what I have reported that works and what has worked for me.

If you have another habit to do and replace it with the one of eating your nails, you will advance much faster.

In my case it has worked very well to learn the technique of breathing with the belly to do it at critical moments. So much so that it became a habit. Practicing minfulness and the technique of breathing made me aware of how I breathe.

Others are:

  • If you are sitting, put your hands under your thighs and calm down.
  • Get up and talk to someone. Normally we are much less likely to bite when there are people in front of us.
  • Get fixo. If it is very difficult for you to end this habit, put directly on your fingers. Even if you bring your fingers to your teeth, the fixo will be there to avoid biting.
  • Clench your fists. 
  • When you are going to start, think about the image you want to have of yourself.
  • Chew gum.
  • Go for a run.

Important: this you will have to do at the critical moment, when you perceive that you want to bite.

The important thing here is that what works best is to replace the habit with another. That is, it will not work so well, try to stop biting you, but do something completely different in its place and prevent you from biting.

5-Reward yourself

When you have managed to be one day without eating your nails, reward yourself with something that has value for you. You can make a plan like this:

-1 day without eating your nails- reward. For example: going to the movies, eating your favorite food, a gift.

-7 days without eating your nails-reward.

-15 days without eating your nails-reward.

-1 month-reward.

Besides rewarding that you have managed to stay a while without biting yourself, it is good that you reward good habits. If, for example, you start running right after you feel like eating your nails, it will be good for you to give yourself a reward for that new behavior to take hold.

6-Use reminders

A reminder will allow you to remember your commitment every time you are close to falling into temptation.

There can be several:

  • Paint your nails.
  • A bracelet.
  • Put yourself fixo.
  • A ring.
  • Clay…

7-Forget perfection

As I have investigated, and for myself, people who bite their nails often seek perfection; They want the nails perfectly aligned.

Well, forget about being a perfectionist, you just have to start thinking differently. That is, to think that it is not necessary for everything to be perfect, it does not matter if someone sees your imperfect nails. Even if you start biting, stop, it does not matter if you left the nail “imperfect”.

8-Keep the progress

Once you have taken the first step and have been some days without falling into the temptation, you will have to keep the progress and not lose all the way traveled.

Of course you will have to continue practicing all the previous steps, although you can also use methods to see your progress and thus maintain and increase your motivation. 

For example, you can take pictures of your nails to be aware of your progress. When you observe them, you will be more motivated because you will think that your effort has been worthwhile. This is as simple as taking pictures of your hands with your smartphone.

9-Work your self-esteem and solve stress

Your results will be magnified if you work out some possible causes of this vice. To improve self-esteem I recommend you read this article.

10-Other techniques

In addition to the above, you can use other methods to help you, both to complement and alternatives:

  • Use files: do not even think about eating your nails to cut them when they are too long. This would be falling back into the bad habit. Instead, when you see that they are long, use a file to cut them out.
  • Liquids / enamel: in the pharmacies they sell liquids that are applied to the nails and that give them a bad taste when biting them. I have not tried it although I have heard that they are effective.

And to you what has served you? Have you been able to stop? Why did you start? You can comment in the comments section, I’m interested in your opinion. Thank you!