6 Interesting Causes of Onychophagia & Ways to stop it

Most of the kids and teenagers are affected by Onychophagia or nail biting. Most of the people with this habit start biting nails in childhood and the habit persists till the adulthood if not stopped.

6 Interesting Causes of Onychophagia & Ways to stop it

What Causes Onychophagia?

We all are aware of the cosmetic damage nail biting does to the hands. However, there is more damage caused by nail biting then just the cosmetic damage. Repeated or chronic nail biting or onychophagia can make the skin around your nails damaged and sore, and it can also damage the tissue that makes nails grow which result in bad or ugly looking nails.

Chronic nail biting can also leave you vulnerable to infection as you pass harmful bacteria and viruses from your nails to your mouth as your nails and hands are the first contact points to your mouth.

Healthy nails appear smooth and have a standard and uniform color. However, unhealthy nails appears to have a lot of a few spots on the, have pits and grooves on them. They generally are not uniform in color and get ridges or grooves on them.

Some of the abnormalities develop on the nails because of trauma or injury and these spots or abnormalities goes away as the nails grow long.

All of us should examine our nails closely to rule out the presence of any anomalies mentioned above. Some of the abnormalities mostly go unnoticed because of our lack of care. Sometimes, the abnormalities occur because of the presence of underlying systemic diseases. However, a dermatologist should be visited in case one or many of the below mentioned abnormalities are seen to rule out the presence of any systemic diseases.

Also a good thing which is relieving is that onychophagia does not cause any long term damage. However, nail biting is not considered hygienic. The practice or habit of biting nails is very unhygienic and it can lead to more frequent illnesses and nail or skin infections. However, it is good to avoid and leave this habit of biting the nails to stay healthy and away from infections and other systemic infections.

There is no specific reason that has been discovered as a reason for nail biting. But researches have proved certain reasons for nail biting which have been considered as reasons for biting nails.

6 Causes of Onychophagia

The Interesting Causes Of Onychophagia Are Described Below:

  1. Stress buster

    Nail biting is considered one of the habits in people who are much stressed. People who remain stressed most of the times usually have a habit of nail biting. Nail biting is a sign of emotional stress. People who are tensed, depressed, and nervous and feel down tend to have a habit of nail biting than people who are not stressed. People find nail biting as a method to combat the stress.

  2. Genetics

    Another reason of people having the habit of nail biting is genetics. The gene responsible for this trait can be transmitted from the parents to the children.

  3. Habit from Parents

    It is observed that if the parents bite their nails, their children can get the same habit even if the parents have stopped biting their nails long before the child is born.

  4. Hunger

    Other reasons which have been observed as reasons for nail biting can include excessive hunger and to combat this hunger, people start biting nails.

  5. Feelings of Insecurity

    Other times when people have been seen biting nails are when they are excessively bored or when they feel insecure about anything. While feeling all these feelings, the nails automatically go into the moth and some people feel comfort while baiting nails.

  6. Psychological Issues

    Another reason behind nail biting is a serious psychological problem with the individual which keeps provocating the individual to bite the nails all the time. People with such disorders are supposed to consult a physician and get the underlying disorder treated.

7 Ways to Stop Onychophagia

  1. Keep Your Nails Short

    It is obvious that if you have sort nails, you will be less tempted to cut them with your teeth and so there are lesser chances for the germs to be transferred from the nails to the mouth. So an easy and distracting way to stop yourself from getting your distracted from biting nails is to keep them trimmed short

  2. Apply Bitter-Tasting Nail Polish to Your Nails

    Another good method to get rid of nail biting habit is to wear nail paints which taste bitter. These nail paints are available over the counter or at the drug stores. These nail paints will automatically make your nails stay away from the mouth. Another method is to cover your nails with tape or stickers or wear gloves to prevent biting.

  3. Get Manicures Frequently

    When you find your nails looking lovely, there are lesser chances for you to bite them off. This is an easier way to stop biting nails. Keep them beautiful by having regular manicure sessions every fortnight or once a week. Getting a regular manicure won’t just keep your hands and nails beautiful but also help you leave this habit of nail biting and also helps you stay away from infections.

    Certain other methods are also available which can help you from biting your nails. Certain nail powders are available which when applied keeps your nails away from the mouth. These nail powders are applied on the bare nails or even over manicured nails. You can simply brush this powder on your nails and leave it on, let it dry completely, and reapply whenever you feel the need.

  4. Cultivate Another Good Habit to Replace Nail Biting

    When you feel like biting your nails, try playing with a stress ball or silly putty instead. This will help keep your hands busy and away from your mouth. These methods always help you tame the stress and keep you away from biting the nails at all times.

  5. Identify the Triggers to Treat the Underlying Cause

    There are different triggers in every other individual which makes them bite the nails. For some of the people, nail biting is induced by stress, anxiety or boredom. Or there can be other triggers like hangnails or dry cuticles which tempt the person to bite the nails most of the times. It is after figuring out the trigger to bite the nails; you will be able to avoid nail biting.

    When you know the reason for nail biting, develop a plan to get rid of the habit, you will definitely be able to get rid of triggers and the nail biting eventually.

  6. Try to Gradually Stop Biting Your Nails Step By Step

    You can cultivate the habit to stop biting the nails when you take a step and make a decision of not biting them. You can always start with one of the finger nails by deciding that you won’t bite one of the nails in day ad adding other fingers and nails every day. Many people have found this method very helpful in getting rid of the habit.

    There are other methods available in the market these days called chewelry, which is made of silicone and can be chewed whenever you feel a need to bite the nails. These are available in the form of jewelry may be a neck piece and it can be chewed whenever a need is seen. And you can also choose your chewelry based upon the teeth toughness or your ability or requirement to bite.

Consultation with a Physician

In case you have tried all above methods to stop nail biting and nothing seems to be working and you want to get rid of the habit of nail biting, it is advisable to consult a physician.

For some people, nail biting may be a sign of a more serious psychological or emotional behavior and getting a therapy is one option can help you in breaking the habit.

Taking good care of your nails is also very important to break this habit of nail biting. When you take care f your nails and start feeling good about the way they look, you won’t bite them.

Various methods and habits that you should follow to take care of your nails are mentioned below:

Always Keep Your Hands and Cuticle Well Hydrated

Dry cuticles can lead to the hangouts on the skin which when pulled caused a little or more damage to the skin and nails depending upon the quality of skin. So, it is necessary to keep the skin well hydrated and to avoid any damage to the nail bed and to avoid any invasion of bacteria and fungi into the area where cuticles have been damaged.

Always Keep Your Personal Nail Care Tools Well Cleaned and Sterilized

The first thing that everyone should take care of is keeping the nails care tools to you and keeping them clean. It is advisable not t share the nail care tools with other people to maintain the hygiene and to not transfer infections from one person to another. Make sure you clean your nail care tolls like nail file etc. clean to prevent any infections.

Put Antiseptics on the Cuts You Get On Cuticles While Cutting Them or During Manicure

Cuts always make the skin more prone to infections. Places where skin is cut is always more vulnerable to infections than the normal skin. You should always cure the cuts that have occurred on the skin by putting disinfectants on the skin and keeping it covered. These infections might cause long term damage to the skin by causing bacterial and fungal infections.

Ingrown Nails Should Be Treated Properly and Quickly

It is essential to treat the ingrown and broken nails as quickly as they are damaged as the broken nails might damage the surrounding skin and damage it making it more prone to bacterial and fungal infections. In addition to looking ugly, these nails are more prone to causing infections. These are generally treated with a good ointment and if the damage is already being done, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist to treat the infection.

Take Supplements for Weak Nails

Vitamin and minerals supplements work well to treat the weal nails and make them strong. You should always take zinc and biotin supplements to maintain the health of your nails. These supplements make your nails strong and prevent them from getting broken easily with the slightest trauma.

Hands Should Be Covered While Cleaning With Hands

Hands, cuticles and nails are a risk of being damaged when you are washing the dishes with the harsh dish wash bars, or are using chemicals to clean your house or any of the activities that might damage the skin and nails, you should always wear gloves. Gloves protect the skin, nails and cuticles from damage while doing these harsh activities and also help in preventing infections on the skin and hands.

Do Not Pull the Hangnails or Rough and Dry Cuticles

Most of us also have a habit of pushing the hangnails off making it rough. Also, the cuticles become dry because of the dry weather or lack of moisture. And the first thing that we unconsciously do is pulling the dry cuticle off which might even lead to bleeding from the affected area while making it more prone to the infections of any kind.

Do Not Be Hard On Nails by Pushing the Cuticles Backwards

Most of us try to elongate or lengthen our nails by pushing the cuticle back a lot while getting the manicure sessions or by doing it ourselves.

The cuticles should be left in their normal and let them be like they are naturally. Trimming the cuticle too deep and pushing them backward causes damage and may affect the growth of nail and make the skin more prone to infections.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 4, 2018

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