There is no one single “how to stop nail biting” solution that works for everybody. We are all different and like so many other things in life, what works for one might not work for another.
Age, personality, family, daily environment, how long you have been biting, etc. are all things that come into play when you try to stop or want to help someone to stop.
For example, telling a 4-year old that his nails could potential be hiding Salmonella and E.Coli bacteria, will properly not help him a lot in his effort to stop nail biting. But maybe it could be a good start for an adult, as he can understand the risks of getting these bacteria into his body.
Motivation and commitment
But first and most important, let me ask you a question: Do you really want to stop nail biting?
I know you might think it’s a silly question – after all, you are here on this site! But I am asking because many people say they want to stop, but are really not committed or lack the motivation. They put a bit of bitter taste nail polish on their fingers and think that will do it. It won’t – trust me!
Whether we talk bitter taste nail polish, stress ball, gloves, manicure or something else – if you are not committed or have the motivation to quit, then it will not happen.
All the different products you can buy are all just support and help for you. They will not do the job alone. The real driver here is you! You and your own motivation and commitment to stop your nail biting habit.
So let me ask you again: Do you really want to stop nail biting?
What is your trigger
Now that you are committed to stopping nail biting, let’s find your trigger. Your trigger is what makes you bite your nails (stress, boredom, etc).
Many people say they really don’t have a trigger. They started one day (mostly they can’t remember when that was) and now it’s a habit. This might be right for some people. But most have a trigger – maybe they just never thought about it.
The trigger is important to know because it will help you find the right tool to stop your nail biting.
Do you bite nail when you:
- Watch TV
- Read a book
- Drive the car
- Are together with many people
- Are under stress from work
In the beginning, you might not be able to identify your trigger. So try keeping a small journal. Write down the following every time you find yourself nail biting:
- Where are you?
- What are you doing?
- What and how are you feeling?
With this journal growing, I am sure you will soon notice a pattern. When you know your trigger, it is easier to control or remove it, find alternatives or ways to cope with it.
Ways to stop nail biting
There many ways to deal with nail-biting. Below I have gathered the 5 most common ones.
Keep the nails short
This one is easy and straightforward. Keep your nails short and trimmed. Make sure you use a nail file to remove the rough edges. This way you will have less nail to bite and there will be no rough edges to draw your attention.
Make sure you keep a small manicure kit with you – or at least a nail file. This way you can quickly fix a broken nail or hangnail without biting them off.
Get a manicure
I admit it – I have never got a manicure! But I know several women who get a regular manicure and that helps them from nail-biting. They simply love the look of those beautiful nails and that’s enough reason for them not to bite.
Anti nail biting polish
Anti nail biting polish is the most used solution for stopping nail biting. It’s a clear and awful-tasting nail polish that discourage most people from biting their nails. Since nail biting is mostly an unconscious habit, the idea is, you will immediately stop what you are doing when you get this nasty stud in your mouth. I have used it many times and it still surprises me how awful it tastes.
OBS! Don’t use anti-nail biting polish for toddlers
Take one finger at a time
Another good way to stop nail biting is to take one finger at a time. I have used this method myself and no matter how odd it may sound, it helped me to gradually stop, instead of going all-in from day one. You can, for example, start with your thumbnails and after around a week not biting them, move on and add two more fingers.
Stress ball, softball, etc. – call it what you want, it’s basically a small soft rubber ball you can play around with and keep your hands busy. I still have several of these small balls and use them a lot, especially when I sit in front of the computer.
Be patient, breaking a habit takes time
I was a nail biter for 35 years and I don’t know the number of times I have tried to stop.
Whether you are helping your child or yourself to stop nail biting, it’s important that you are patient and don’t expect overnight results. It is not always that easy to break a habit, so give yourself time. And if your first attempt is not a success, then try again.
Also, don’t be afraid to switch your strategy. If you feel that for example, a stress ball is no good, then try one of the other ideas. Many times people will find themselves using a mix of tools.
“It is not important what strategy or tool you use. The importance is whether it works for you or not”
When to seek professional help
For some people nail biting is so severe, that bitter nail polish or a stress ball won’t help anymore. These people will keep biting, even if there is no nail left. They will bite the skin around the nails until it bleeds. The fingers will be sore and hurting, but it will not stop them.
At this point, the reason for nail-biting probably lays deeper than just boredom or some stress from work. Watch out for other behaviors like scratching skin or pulling out hair. This could be signs of a much more serious anxiety issue and a doctor should be involved to help.
Featured photo credit: Maxwell GS / Flickr