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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Nail Biting! How detailed is your knowledge of this issue?

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By Fatoumata S. Sarjo

Hello beautiful readers! My name is Fatoumata S Sarjo, and I am a first timer on this platform. However, I believe my colleagues have been doing a great job educating the public on different health related issues so I hope to effectively uphold this worthy practice. Now let’s take a walk down the lane of today’s topic! The habit of biting one’s nails has become pretty common amongst people in our various societies regardless of age. Many believe it to be harmless or simply view it as some childish behaviour that is not worthy of any serious attention but this is a misconception. Nail biting is unhealthy and can be a very common source of infection but the question is, how much do you know about this underrated unhealthy habit?

What is nail biting
from a health perspective?
Nail Biting, medically referred to as onychophagia, is one of many other oral parafunctional habits which involves using the mouth for a purpose other than what it’s meant for (in this case, to bite one’s nails). Onychophagia can also be rightly termed as a body-focused repetitive behaviour. Some common examples of other parafunctional habits include pencil/pen chewing and digit sucking. The habit of nail biting begins during childhood, considerably increases with growth, and may continue into adulthood. It is rare for the habit to be initially developed during the stage of adulthood thus the notion that adult victims must have started at a younger age without really growing out of it. A theory associated with nail biting is that it is a continuation of the habit of digit sucking.

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Why do people bite their nails?/Causes of Onychophagia
Nail biting is a lowly recognised habit, and its specific cause is highly debatable. It is believed to be an automatic, unintentional behaviour that fast becomes a habit without full realisation of the victim. The causes of nail biting may include familial factors, psychological, or acquired. Researches have shown that nail biting is more prevalent among children whose parents were more or less nail biters, even on ceasing the habit before the birth of their children.

Onychophagia may affect individuals who are stable psychologically but most often, it is a sign of loss of control over tasks that are more or less difficult. The primary psychological factors that have been found to be associated with nail biting are nervousness, stress, low mood and anxiety. As a matter of fact, nail biting tends to be a “relief tension mechanism” in moments of stress, and addicted victims become prone to more distress when trying to restrain from the habit. Thus, boredom stands as a potential trigger for nail biting whereas low self-esteem and hunger may be termed as possible causes.

Effects of nail biting
It is of no doubt that the most basic effect of nail biting known to most people happens to be entirely cosmetic related. However, severe nail biting subjects a person to a number of complications that go beyond cosmetics. From a social stance, nail biting is regarded as an unpleasant habit that incurs social impairment, emotional suffering and humiliation.
Onychophagia can also affect one’s physical health immensely. For example, nail biting goes a long way in damaging and disfiguring the nails. This may lead to an irreversible shortening of the nails in extreme cases by detaching the distal nail from its bed and bleeding is likely to occur. Additionally, being a nail biter greatly puts a person’s beautiful smile at risk! There is a high possibility of chipping, cracking, or breaking the teeth as a result of nail biting and eventually, one is likely to suffer from jaw problems.
Moreover, hands are a hotbed for germs, and nails happen to be their ideal hideout. As such, constantly biting your nails creates the perfect gateway for germs to penetrate especially through the skin damages caused by this undesirable habit. This simply increases the chances of the victim becoming sick which is a deterioration to a person’s overall health.

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Preventions of nail biting
Once the habit of nail biting sets in, quitting is not as easy as it may sound. However, behavioural treatments including habit reversal have been proved to ensure effective outcomes. On the contrary, making fun of nail biters, punishing them, or reminding them to stop biting their nails have proved futile in helping them refrain from the habit. Nevertheless, here are some recommended strategies geared towards doing away with nail biting.

· Observe your feelings and actions whenever you bite your nails. The more you know about what triggers you into biting your nails, the more prepared you will be to substitute the habit with more efficient means of coping in such situations.
· This may sound intolerable but coating your nails with an unpleasant taste or flavour will prevent you from devouring them. You will be forced to think twice of that awful taste before welcoming your nails into your mouth.

· Nail biting can be termed as a result of an idle hand and mouth right? Well, keep these two busy! Chew gums instead and engage your fingers with drawing, sports etc to keep them out of your mouth.
· Have you seen that friend of yours with the flawless natural nails? Make that your motivation to grow your nails beautifully. A timely manicure of your nails to keep them at a reasonable length will also help in making sure you are not triggered to bite.


So, a lot has been covered in this article to further strengthen our understanding of what nail biting is all about. The point therefore is to guard one’s health jealously and desist from this habit or better still, motivate someone to give up the habit. We owe it to a good and healthy life!

By Fatoumata S. Sarjo
[email protected]

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