How Can I Learn to Stop Biting My Nails on My Own?

Some self help options for conquering an undesirable nail biting habit include:

  • Get a manicure, or at least keep your nails immaculately cut and maintained. Not having anything obvious to pull at can help to reduce urges to bite, as can your desire to keep your already great looking nails in good shape.
  • Wear nail polish – same reason as above
  • Wear gloves or band aids on your fingers while at home, or at times when you have a tendency to bite (this can help you to break your habit)
  • Keep something on hand to keep your fingers busy whenever you feel an urge to bite your nails, such as a squeeze toy
  • If you bite your nails in times of stress, learn other types of relaxation exercises, like deep breathing techniques, and apply them whenever you get an urge to bite
  • Apply commercially available solutions to your finger nails. These solutions are designed to help people break free from nail biting and once applied to a finger nail will adhere like nail polish and will make finger nails taste awful
  • Keep a journal of your nail biting, so you’ll know exactly when and where you’re most likely to engage in your habit. Once you know what prompts you to bite, you can minimize your exposure to these types of temptations1

I Can’t Stop on My Own – Are There Any Effective Treatments out There?

If you find that going it alone isn’t working or if you’re really worried about your nail biting and the effect it has on your life, you can and should seek out professional help to get past it (especially since in some cases it can be a sign of OCD, which does certainly require treatment)

The most common types of psychotherapies offered for nail biters are typically types of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) such as habit reversal training or stimulus control therapy.

Habit Reversal Training – Teaches people to become more aware of their nail biting habits, and once always very aware of impulses to bite, to answer these impulses with a new, learned, healthier habit response.

Stimulus Control Therapy – In stimulus control therapy you are trained to become very attuned to the outside stimuli that trigger your impulses to bite your nails. Once you know what triggers your behaviors, you can take steps to minimize your exposure to these triggers, or be better prepared for such situations.

Medications – In some cases, people with severe compulsive nail biting habits may benefit from medications, typically of the SSRI class of anti depressants. Medications are rarely effective without accompanying therapy, however.2

References
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Page last updated Nov 13, 2011

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