Is it bad for me to bite my fingernails?

Fingernail chewing

Brief overview

  • Causes: Usually an outlet for unresolved conflict or stressful situations, possibly also a symptom of a mental disorder
  • Is it bad to bite your fingernails? If the person concerned chews their nails compulsively and for a long time, painful skin tears can occur. The nail plate can shorten. In addition, bacterial or viral infections, warts or nail growth disorders can occur.
  • What can be done about chewing fingernails? Apply special nail polish from the pharmacy, cut your nails short, look for another "stress valve". The doctor has therapeutic options to wean those affected from chewing their fingernails. Some people also swear by homeopathy and Schuessler salts

Fingernail chewing: causes and possible diseases

In most cases, fingernail chewing is one type Valve for unresolved conflicts and tense situations. Sufferers cannot adequately deal with stress and tension.

Mostly one observes nail biting in children and adolescents. It generally does not appear until after the age of 4. Most often, seven to ten year old children nibble their fingernails. A possible reason for this is constricting and oppressive upbringing. Especially when the environment restricts adolescents in motor skills and / or leaves them emotionally alone and aggressive behavior and other feelings are not allowed to be lived out, the likelihood increases that those affected will begin to bite their nails. Nail biting is considered inappropriate, so inadequateAffect discharge or as Substitute satisfaction.

Overall, fingernail chewing can mainly be observed in two groups of children:

  • Motor-restless, hyperactive and easily excitable children who often show other habitual behaviors such as grinding teeth or cracking fingers
  • Over-anxious children who are restricted in their motor and emotional areas and cannot develop

Excessively vigorous fingernail chewing, which also injures the cuticle, can be a mental disorder act with a tendency to self-harm (autoaggression).

Diseases with this symptom

Find out here about the diseases that can cause the symptom:

Is it bad to bite your fingernails?

Often times, fingernail biting begins as a harmless habit. In most affected children and adolescents, it goes away on its own after puberty. The reason is probably the increasing maturity of the personality.

If biting your fingernails becomes compulsive, however, there is a risk of unpleasant and painful consequences. Because people who compulsively chew or bite their fingernails often chew them down to the sole of the nail. Sometimes they also nibble on the skin of the fingertips. Constant biting of the nail shortens the nail plate and can lead to bacterial or viral inflammation, bleeding and malformations. The tears in the skin of the nails or fingertips can be painful, and warts are more likely to develop in the damaged areas (common warts = varrucae vulgares). Sometimes nail growth disorders also occur.

What helps with fingernail chewing?

In many cases, those affected can do something themselves to get rid of the bad habit. Sometimes, however, a medical examination and treatment are also advisable.

Fingernail-chewing: You can do it yourself

If chewing your fingernails is just an annoying habit that has no deep psychological cause, you can do a lot yourself.

  • If you want to stop chewing your fingernails for yourself or your child, you can get a special nail polish from the pharmacy to prevent nail biting. This tastes quite bitter, which makes nail biting very unpleasant. It also makes the person concerned aware that they are (unconsciously) nibbling their nails.
  • It also often helps to cut your nails short. Because where there is little nail, it is difficult to chew something.
  • Some people find it easier to gradually stop chewing their fingernails. Then it can help to get used to leaving only part of the nails alone at first. The self-imposed "chewing ban" is then slowly extended to the remaining nails.
  • Older girls and adult women can sometimes stop biting their nails with the following tip: beautify the nails with artificial fingernails or an elaborate manicure. This can prevent you from chewing your fingernails.
  • Sometimes relaxation techniques can also stop nail biting if it serves as an outlet for anxiety, tension, and inner restlessness.
  • Hyperactive and impulsive nail bites can try to channel their excess energy into other channels (e.g. into sports or other motor activities). Then the nail biting is often lost.

Fingernail chewing: what does the doctor do?

Before the doctor can suggest a suitable therapy, he must make sure that no profound personality disorder is the cause of fingernail chewing in question (if so, going to a specialist such as a psychiatrist is advisable).

Eight tips against nail biting

  • No more nibbling!

    At the desk, in the subway, on the couch - for nail bitters it doesn't matter where you are, you can nibble your nails anywhere. Mostly children and adolescents are affected by the nervous habit, but some adults cannot get away from it either. Since this is not entirely harmless - it can cause wounds, inflammation, bleeding and malformations - it is worth stopping. Eight tips to help you succeed.
  • Keep your nails short

    Short nails offer less surface to bite. Therefore, keep your nails as short as possible by trimming them regularly. It is best to file them in addition so that there are no corners and edges that could tempt you to nibble.
  • Apply bitter nail polish

    Fortunately, the industry is responding to your problems: There are now many different suppliers who offer chew-stop nail polish. In many cases it tastes so disgusting that you don't feel like nibbling anymore. Try it out!
  • Hide your nails

    If you don't want to use nail polish, there are other ways to cover your nails: stick tape, plaster or sticker on it, have artificial nails done or hide them in gloves - this is very easy, especially outside in winter.
  • Treat yourself to manicures

    Have a Manicure Regular: If you are spending money on beautiful nails, you will likely want to get them and your chances of nibbling will decrease. Even more expensive, fancy nail polish that you apply carefully can help.
  • Replace your habit

    Nail biting is not a nice habit. Maybe you can manage to replace it with another one that will distract you from nibbling. For example, you could always put lotion on your hands, knead a stress ball, or play with a chestnut when you really want to chew. In addition, chewing gum may help you bite your nails less.
  • Identify the triggers

    Various causes can trigger or worsen nail biting. For example, a hangnail - the detached but still stuck part of a fingernail or the skin around the fingernail - can encourage nibbling. Psychological factors such as stress or fear also often play a role. Find out in which situations you chew the most. Just knowing can help sometimes.
  • Fight the causes

    If knowing the triggers alone isn't enough to keep you from chewing, do something about the causes. If hangnails are the main problem, you can always carry small scissors or files with you to remove them. If there are psychological causes behind biting your nail, it is best to consult a psychologist who will talk to you about your problems.
  • Always a finger less

    Some doctors suggest that gradual weaning is easier. They recommend gradually identifying more and more fingers that you no longer nibble on. You can either exclude one finger after the other or always pair of fingers, for example first the two thumbs, then the two index fingers, .... The goal, of course, is not to bite any more fingers at the end of the day.
  • By Dr Varinka Voigt

Therapy against chewing fingernails

A therapeutic method to get someone out of habitual fingernail chewing is the "Habit reversal training“By Azrin and Nunn. First of all, the person affected should keep a diary for a while about the situations in which nail biting occurs (intensified).

Mostly these are situations with increased tension or performance demands (e.g. at school or at work). Then the nail biteter trains a competitive behavior in such situations (like making a fist with the hand).

If rough nail edges induce the person concerned to chew their fingernails, it can be useful to bring a nail care set with you. In critical situations, when the urge to bite their nails occurs, the person concerned can file the rough edges instead (if this is possible in the relevant social environment).

In addition, the person affected should get into the habit of checking the condition of their nails on a daily basis and maintaining them regularly. This can prevent a relapse into fingernail chewing.

Fingernail chewing: homeopathy and Schuessler salts

Sometimes parents of fingernail-biting children and adult nail-biting children try homeopathy or Schüßler salts:

  • For example, the homeopathic Calcium phosphoricum D12 is supposed to help if the fingernail chewing is the result of great tension (e.g. when the person is overburdened at school or at work), the person concerned quickly becomes physically tired and often suffers from headaches.
  • If the symptoms worsen from cold and improve in warm weather, this is a further indication that Calcium phosphoricum D12 is the appropriate homeopathic remedy. The same mineral can be given as Schüßler salt (No. 2), but in the potency D6.
  • Another homeopathic remedy for fingernail chewing is Ammonium bromatum D12. It should be indicated in children who constantly gnaw and bite their fingers and complain of a sensation of irritation under their nails. The symptoms worsen at night and when you wake up, and get better with warmth.
  • Sulfur D12 is said to help with fingernail chewing if the person concerned injures the skin on the nail bed when biting the nail, which leads to chronic inflammation, and if there is a general tendency to skin rashes. Cold and prolonged standing make the symptoms worse, while warmth relieves them.

The concepts of homeopathy and Schuessler salts and their specific effectiveness are controversial in science and not clearly proven by studies.

Fingernail chewing: when to see a doctor?

If those affected by the Fingernail chewing do not injure themselves and feel ashamed of the bitten off nails, there is no need for action - children usually stop biting their nails at some point on their own. In all other cases you should see a doctor.

Author & source information