Check your fingernails. Are they ragged or torn? Are the cuticles sore? If so, then you are likely one of the millions of people who possess the seemingly unbreakable habit of nail chewing.
Typically born out of stress and/or nervousness, the habit of nail chewing can progress from a minor symptom of stress or nervous behavior to an uncontrollable, unconscious habit. Because the human body generally finds it difficult to just sit idly, many people find themselves absentmindedly chewing their nails during regular activities in which their hands aren’t utilized, such as watching television or reading a paper.
You are likely aware of the problem but have no idea what can be done to stop it. As it has become severely ingrained into your daily habits, nail biting and chewing can sometimes be as addictive and intensely hard to break as cigarettes or drinking.
Possible solutions are numerous and varied, designed either to inhibit, cure, or distract you from nail chewing actions.
One simple solution to stop you from chewing your nails is to wear gloves. While this may certainly inhibit you from biting your nails, it is not entirely practical, as wearing gloves can also inhibit you from performing other functions requiring your hands, and it would be impossible to wear them continually, especially in hot weather.
Attempting to serve as a distraction, chewing gum has worked for many, while others have had little or no results, continuing to chew their nails even as the gum lay in their mouth.
Another recommendation is to actually physically train yourself not to bite or chew your nails. This can sometimes be achieved by sprinkling your nails with a substance such as chili powder or a foul tasting, bitter liquid. In this method, every time you attempt to chew your nails, you will have an adverse reaction to the horrid or hot taste on your fingertips, and eventually “cure” yourself of the habit.
Many have claimed success with this solution, but the process can sometimes be long, while others have claimed to revert back to their nail chewing habit once the substance has been removed or washed away.
Similar methods involve purchasing creams that are intended to serve the same purpose, or getting frequent manicures, as you would be less likely to destroy your nails if they were kept properly maintained in such a fashion. Trimming your nails also serves to eradicate the problem by eliminating the very substance your teeth seek to clamp down upon.
Some have had success with using a nail hardener, claiming the difficulty in chewing through the toughened nails eventually staved off the unconscious desire. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect in others, who focused increased effort on biting their nails, determined to break through the hardened nails.
Of course, some simple information may be enough to psychologically induce you to stop biting your nails. Nails that are chewed and bitten are more susceptible to bacterial infection, resulting in damaged nail beds or fungus growing beneath the nail. More serious infections can be the result of torn cuticles.
Additionally, the more you chew your nails, the more you increase the risk for destroying the enamel on your teeth, similarly raising the risk for chipping a tooth.
Also, keep in mind that unless you wash and disinfect your hands regularly, you are placing fingertips covered with all sorts of dirt and bacteria into your mouth. While this may not necessarily be harmful, perhaps the very thought is disgusting enough to warrant more serious attention the next time you feel yourself drawn to chew your nails.
Of course, if none of the above methods work, you may want to consider other alternative methods, including hypnosis or acupuncture. Lastly, though the habit is problematic, it is in fact a habit shared by millions, so there is no shame in it, but for health and aesthetic reasons, you should make every effort to rid yourself of the habit.