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Have a Nail Biting Habit?

Written by S.O.

Posted on October 5, 2015 at 7:30 am

Nail biting is a behavior that is usually exhibited by people who have more than average levels of nervousness and/or anxiety. It can be a hard habit to change because of set behavioral patterns. Since it is used as a method of coping during stressful times, people find it very hard to let go of.

Most nail biters assume that they are not harming themselves in any way. This is a common misconception. Regular nail biting will change the growth and structure of your nails, as well as causing other consequences. It is a repetitive behavior and is extremely hard to quit.

The Consequences of Nail Biting
Having greater awareness of the behavior and its negative consequences can be helpful when trying to quit this habit.

1) Skin Damage

Regular nail biters often end up harming the skin around their nails. This skin is thinner and more prone to damage; it will become sore and painful. The skin damage will increase the risk of infection. An infection will cause painful swelling and accumulation of pus.

2) Abnormal-Looking Nails

The constant damage to the tissue around your nails will cause structural changes. The nail biting habit will make your nails grow crooked and abnormal-looking. Regular nail biters are also more susceptible to serious fungal and bacterial nail infections.

3) Frequent Colds and Flu

Nail biting is unsanitary. Your hands and nails have germs that can easily cause you to get sick if transferred to your mouth from your fingers.

4) Damage to Teeth and Gums

The force of biting nails can be transferred to your teeth; you may end up with chipped or cracked teeth. This leads to decreased oral health, and your teeth might wear down prematurely.
Nail biting can weaken the roots of your teeth. Nail biters with braces (or brackets) can damage the roots leading to a condition called root resorption (shortened roots). Root resorption leads to weakening of teeth and eventually tooth loss.

5) Psychological Effects

A study on self-esteem indicates that nail biting can affect an individual’s ability for objective self-evaluation. They end up valuing other people’s’ evaluations over their own.

6) Frequent Gastrointestinal Infections

The most common bacteria found under your nails are categorized as Enterobacteriaceae – salmonella and E. coli are a part of this group. If you transfer these harmful germs to your mouth through frequent nail biting, you will increase the risk of developing gastrointestinal infections.

Regular nail biting can be a symptom of deeper underlying psychological conditions. Mental diseases such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can manifest as a nail biting habit. Learning better coping mechanisms will be extremely helpful in such cases. If you think that your problems are serious or if you’re having trouble quitting, please consult a mental health professional. Telemedicine, like always, can be of great help.

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