How To Stop Picking Your Nails

stop nail biting

You know it; I know it, each of us has at least, that one lousy secret habit (like nail picking) we could give anything to stop.

In most cases, you’ve tried everything you can to stop this behavior, but it just won’t go away.

One of such manners is nail picking; it’s embarrassing, can lead to damaged self-esteem, and if left untreated could lead to permanent damage to the nails and cuticles.

I understand we’re humans, and we have our struggles.

However, in this article, I’d be exploring ways, actions and proven methods to break the cycle. If you’re ready, let’s go ahead to explore this together.


But, first, let’s see why people bit their nails.

Several theories have been advanced as to why people pick their nails; here are some of the interesting ones:

Most psychologists follow the conventional explanation that nails picking is as a result of boredom, preoccupation, tiredness, anxiety and or merely the desire for comfort. However, there are others like Sigmund Freud that believes that chronic biting is an indication of a fault in an individual’s psychosexual development.

Then, there are others that believed it’s a sign of inner aggression against oneself which manifests in the act of self-mutilation.


Another school of thought believes that there isn’t any common cause of nails biting, but rather one develops the habit as a result of several reasons. An individual may bite them because they are stressed and wants to take the edge off while another may have developed the habit from mimicking another person. However, the pitfall with this reasoning is that there’s no remedy for something with no specific cause. 

One take away from all the explanation put forward is that there’s no specific and widely agreed on the cause of nail picking. However, some situations could trigger the urge.


Nail Biting Triggers

So, listed below are some of the triggers for nail biting.

stop nail picking

  • Stressful situations: You can’t run away from stress its part of the daily grind. Unfortunately, you’re increasingly exposed to stressful situations. The result is that your body adopts several outlets to let out steam including nail-biting.
  • Anxiety: Most biters find themselves fighting the impulse to put their nails in their mouth when nervous or anxious, this their unconscious way of dealing with their stress.
  • Boredom: The odd of nail picking is heightened in situations when someone is bored. In fact, low activity is another apparent trigger for this behavior.
  • Hunger: Having the urge to chomp them could be your body signaling to you it’s to feed it. According to a report on Medscape, hunger is thought to be a possible cause for nail biting.


Health & Psychological Impacts of Nail Picking

Now, we know what could trigger nail biting. Is there health or psychological impacts of nail picking on an individual?

Nail biting could act as a potential gateway for pathogens, germs, and bacteria to find their way into the body, hence posing a significant health risk to the individual. Here’re some possible health risks of chronic nail picking:

Nasty nail infections

The continual biting of the nails and the skin around them can expose and can be ravaged by germs both from your mouth and the environment leading to paronychia – a common form of infection that caused swelling. Pus-filled lumps, redness, and severe pain.

You could fall ill

Your hands come in contact with all kinds of objects and surfaces laden with bacteria and germs then lifting these unsanitary hands into your mouth mean you’re setting yourself up for microbial invasion of your body. Unless you’re like a Jedi fighting against bacteria in your house with a UV sanitizing wand under your belt(cool!), you’re inviting making weakening your immune system and making yourself vulnerable to diseases such as common cold to a severe stomach infection.

Susceptible to Ingrown nails

Chronic picking can lead to the damage of the generative tissue beneath the fingernails which could result in ingrown nails.

It can cause Herpetic Whitlow

You can easily infect your fingers with oral herpes that could lead to a painful condition known as the herpetic whitlow. The symptoms of this infection include a tingling burning and unpleasant sensation on the infected finger and maybe a fever.


How to Stop Picking Your Nails

So what practical steps can you take to wean yourself of nail picking?

Honestly, breaking free from an addictive habit is hard but doable. So, here are practical tips from individuals like you who figured out a way to finally get rid of this gross behavior.

So here we go:

Step1: Stay aware

The first step in breaking a bad habit is being conscious when the impulse arises. Within this space of awareness, notice what you’re doing at that moment, notice the emotional state you’re in – are you stressed? Tensed? Hungry? Is it stress or just pressure? Taking note of this will help you minimize these triggers and with time wean you from the desire.

Developing your ability to be in the present will be hard initially, but with practice, you would begin to take notice of what you’re doing at every moment without zoning out. This is super helpful in your quest since you’d notice whenever your hands start cribbing up to your face.


Step 2: Follow your favorite nail artists for inspiration

Remember, the struggle is partly psychological and partly physical, feed your mind with the kind of nail image you admire. A quick search on YouTube or Instagram will pull several gorgeous nail artists you can follow. A perfect manicure is completed by a nail dryer cure, so don’t forget this step.

Always watching and reading the contents from these artists gives you the boosts you need to break the nail biting habit.


Step 3: Switch one habit for another

It’s a known practice in addiction treatment that to beat an addiction one has to replace the old pattern with a new desirable one. So in this case, whenever you catch yourself beginning to raise your hands, instead of taking it to your mouth rub your hands and unwrap a chewing gum – well, this means you’ve got to always have some bubble gums with you.

The trick here is to rewire your brain to associate the impulse with hand rubbing or any other positive activity you can come up with.


Step 4: Ask for help

Honestly, you might not be able to do this alone; hence it’s vital you enlist the help of people you trust, your friends, and family. You could tell them to draw your attention whenever they catch you starting to bite your nails; it could be something as simple as “your name, hands” like “Cathy, hands.” By calling your attention to it, you can then make the conscious decision to stop.


Step 5: Get your nails manicured

The idea behind this is, wouldn’t want to ruin your perfect manicure by biting at them. And if you can, do it yourself. By spending time taking care of your nails (getting yourself a set of acrylic nails, for example, which last longer than regular polishes), the chances of spoiling your handwork is reduced. 


Wrapping Up!

So, there you have it, having you been struggling with nails picking or you’ve freed yourself from the habit, we would love to hear from you. Share your story with us.

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  1. This doesn’t help much at all. I honestly wish I was a nail BITER instead of a nail PICKER because then I could put on hardening nail polish, bad tasting polish, acrilcs, or always chew gum. There are so many tips on how to stop biting but what about picking? Nobody pays attention to us pickers.

    • I feel you. Struggling with the nail picking myself. The “best” advice I’m reading is to just increase your awareness of it and when you find yourself picking, do something else that can distract you/bring you a bit of that pain/pleasure you are seeking (like snapping an elastic band on your wrist or pinching yourself). I’ll be giving these things a try and hope for the best…good luck to all of you who struggle with picking.

  2. I completely agree. I have been known to pick off false nails. And I am allergic to acrylic, not to mention that they will destroy the real nail. Yes, stress sends me into a whirlwind of picking. So then how to recover from a bad episode?

  3. hey everyone… i was also a nail picker. a chronic nail picker i would lie to say. i didnt bite my nails but i use my finger nails mainly right thumb to pick other finger nails. (nail picker will understand better ) .not only i used to pick my finger nails but also i picked my toe nails. the nails on my limbs were horrible. there was a tendency to cut them up with a blade. i was lacking concentration on studies as my brain was also busy in picking nails involuntarily other than studying. i Sometimes i faced embarrassment . my friend teased me what will i do on my engagement. so i was always struggling to get rid of this horrible habit. i spent lots of time for searching for remedies online. finally i found a nail cover on amazon. this is something that has really helped me a lot ” ULTNICE Gel Finger Protector Finger Caps Silicone Finger Cover Cots for Trigger Finger Cracking Finger Arthritis Finger Callus Other Finger Pain Relief 10PCS” i used to wear it during study. now i stopped picking.


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