Biting Your Fingernails?: How To Stop This Bad Habit


What follows are steps to help you to stop biting your fingernails. This is an explanation of my experience overcoming the urge to bite my fingernails, and what has worked for me. It’s all explained in an easy to understand progression of steps. These steps may or may not work for you, but they were very effective for me. At the end, I will list alternative methods to help you to stop biting your nails.

How To Stop Biting Your Fingernails

1. Understand the facts: What fingernail biting is all about

Firstly, I think it is best to start by understanding why we bite our fingernails. Here is a basic and brief definition through the wikipedia on nail biting.


Fingernail biting, also known as onychophagy or onychophagia, is an oral compulsive habit. It is sometimes described as a parafunctional activity, the common use of the mouth for an activity other than speaking, eating, or drinking.

Personally, I’m a little OCD, and if I happened to fray an edge of a nail, I would keep biting it, thinking I could fix the fray. I know that I cannot, but I do it anyway, and end up making it worse.

Health Hazards:

Nail biting is a disgusting habit. It may help to deter you from biting if you know what you are potentially putting into your mouth. Your fingernails are host to a variety of yeast, bacteria and fungus, says Nail biting, can also give you bad breath, wreak havoc on your teeth and gums, give you infections on your fingers, contribute to cold sores, and if you wear color, your fingernail polish you nibble on is essentially poison. If that alone isn’t enough to make you stop chewing those nails, then I don’t know what will. Additionally, the aftermath of chewing can leave your nails very short, and painful. If you bite and pick at the skin around the nail, we know how that skin can become red and irritated, and it takes a long time to heal as well.

2. Develop a plan

Habits are formed through repetition. Over time, these actions that trouble us will seem automatic; as if someone else is behind the wheel, moving our bodies to perform actions on our behalf. The key is to identify the triggers for these actions to enable us to understand how the habit functions.

For me, it was underlying stress, mixed with boredom. Once I understood this, I changed my behavior, by alleviating my stress, and finding things to do to take care of boredom.

One of the most important steps in all of this, and probably the most important is mindfulness. If we are not mindful of our actions, then we will always play out the circumstances of our environment or our half unconscious behavior. Seeing the triggers, changing them, and making an effort to stop myself from biting my nails, over time, changed the behavior.  Now, I never bite my fingernails, and I don’t even think about it. It is a non-issue.

3. Maintenance

After altering my behavior, and being mindful, my fingers and nails had finally healed. It is important to keep the nails trimmed in such a way so they do not have any sharp corners to cause any snags or annoyances. For a woman, this may be a little more challenging, because most women prefer their nails to protrude past the end of their finger. In this case, a nail file would be recommended for smoothing the nail.

If your nail tears, or chips, this could send you back into your old habit. Just remember how far you’ve come, smooth the chip or tear with a pair of clippers or file. If you have a skin tear around the nail, apply some Neosporin and a bandaid, and try to forget about the wound until it heals. Trust me, you’ll enjoy your new, healed fingers and nails much better than tattered and torn up, bitten nails.

4. Additional Tips

  • There are a number of other methods for kicking the habit and maintaining healthy fingernails. These include but are not limited to:
  • Maintain a healthy diet, including foods high in protein, calcium, and magnesium
  • Manicures, and maintenance to take care of those nails and make them pretty. When they look good, you want to keep them that way.
  • Wear glove
  • Fingernail biting deterrent. There are deterrents you can buy to paint onto your fingers that put out an awful taste when you try to bit them.

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