Nail biting

Nail-biting (onychophagia) is a common stress-relieving habit. You may bite your nails in times of stress or excitement, or in times of boredom or inactivity. It can also be a learned behavior from family members. Nail-biting is the most common of the typical "nervous habits," which include thumb-sucking, nose-picking, hair-twisting or -pulling, tooth-grinding, and picking at skin.

You may bite your nails without realizing you are doing it. You might be involved in another activity, such as reading, watching television, or talking on the phone, and bite your nails without thinking about it.

Nail-biting includes biting the cuticle and soft tissue surrounding the nail as well as biting the nail itself.

Who bites their nails?
People of all ages bite their nails.1

  • About 50% of children between the ages of 10 and 18 bite their nails at one time or another. Nail-biting occurs most often as teens are going through puberty changes.
  • About 23% of young adults, ages 18 to 22 years, bite their nails.
  • Only a small number of other adults bite their nails. Most people stop biting their nails on their own by age 30. About 10% of men over the age of 30 bite their nails.
  • Boys bite their nails more often than girls after age 10.

Nail-biting may occur with other body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRB) such as hair-pulling or skin-picking.

What treatments are available for nail-biting?

Several treatment measures may help you stop biting your nails. Some focus on behavior changes and some focus on physical barriers to nail-biting.

  • Keep your nails trimmed and filed. Taking care of your nails can help reduce your nail-biting habit and encourage you to keep your nails attractive.
  • Have a manicure regularly or use nail polish. Men can use a clear polish. Wearing artificial nails may stop you from biting your nails and protect them as they grow out.
  • Try stress-management techniques if you bite your nails because you are anxious or stressed.
  • Paint a bitter-tasting polish, such as CONTROL-IT or Thum, on your nails. The awful taste will remind you to stop every time you start to bite your nails.
  • Try substituting another activity, such as drawing or writing or squeezing a stress ball or Silly Putty, when you find yourself biting your nails. If you keep a record of nail-biting, you will become more aware of the times when you bite your nails and be able to stop the habit.
  • Wear gloves, adhesive bandages, or colored stickers whenever possible to remind you not to bite your nails.
  • Snap a rubber band on the inside of your wrist when you start to bite your nails so you have a negative physical response to nail-biting.
    Children may bite their nails more often when they are having problems at school or with friends. Talk with your child or his or her teacher about any new stress at school. Children are more likely to stop biting their nails when they understand what may trigger it. It is also important for your child to help choose a treatment method so he or she can use the treatment successfully.

What problems can develop from nail-biting?
Nail-biting can cause your fingertips to be red and sore and your cuticles to bleed. Nail-biting also increases your risk for infections around your nailbeds and in your mouth. Dental problems and infections of the gums can be caused by nail-biting.

Long-term nail-biting can also interfere with normal nail growth and cause deformed nails.

Rarely, nail-biting may be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD symptoms are usually treated with medications.

Why don't women heave hairy chests?

Well, actually some women do.

As a culture, we are obsessed with becoming hairless. There are waxing salons, threading salons, laser hair removal treatments, electrolysis, and who could forget good ol' Nair? The truth is that as mammals we are designed to be covered in body hair. We have the same number of hair follicles as our hairier simian friends, but our hair is shorter and finer. The only truly hairless parts of the body are the umbilicus (belly button), the lips, the nipples, the palms, and the soles.

There are two types of hair on the body, vellus hair and terminal hair. Vellus hair is soft, fine, colorless, and short. Vellus hair helps the body maintain a steady temperature by providing some insulation. Terminal hair is found on the head, the armpits, and the pubic area, and on the face and chest in males. It is coarser, darker, and longer than vellus hair.

Hirsutism is the growth of long, coarse hair on the face and body of a woman in a pattern similar to men. Hirsutism can be the result of many medical conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome, hormonal imbalance, tumors, thyroid disease, obesity, anorexia, or medications. Excess hair on the face or chest may simply be due to your genetics. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get rid of excess hair.