You can take comfort from the fact that a lot of people are struggling with this habit. After seeing close-ups of himself in The Return of the King, Elijah Wood (who played Frodo Baggins), announced he would stop biting his nails, having been a nail-biter since childhood. Britney Spears and the UK Prime Minister are also said to be nail biters. One survey revealed that 36% of 5-year-olds, 57% of 12-year-olds and 31% of 16-year-olds bite their nails. (Medicine 2004;32:325.)
How to stop nail-biting
- What was going on in my life when I started to bite my nails?
- What emotions make me bite my nails? Are there particular trigger? situations that make me bite my nails that I might be able to avoid?
- What are the situations in which I do not bite my nails?
- Is there some problem in my life that is causing stress, which I could sort out? (In fact, this may not help a lot because nail-biting often starts during a period of stress, but then continues as a habit after the stress has been sorted out.)
- Keep gloves in your bag or pocket, and wear them when you want to bite.
- Choose one nail to protect?. If you must bite, choose one of the other nails. When this special nail has grown nicely, after a while (don't be in too much of a hurry) choose another nail to protect.
- Stick on artificial nails, but be aware there are safety concerns about artificial nail products. They are made from many chemicals, but the main one is ethyl methacrylate (EMA). Previously, a similar chemical called methyl methacrylate (MMA) was used, but this has been banned in many countries including the USA. Both MMA and EMA can cause eczema, asthma (wheezing and tight chest) and allergies in the eyes and nose (British Medical Journal 2003;327:1050).
Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Saturday, February 13th 2010
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