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Avatar universal

Extreme Nail Biting Problem

I have a nail biting problem.

My nails are chewed down past my fingertips. My ring fingernails are shortest, at about an eight of an inch long. The skin where my nails used to be is scarred and ugly. Despite the intense pain and bleeding, I can't stop biting my nails. When I can't get a grip on the nail with my teeth, I find myself picking at them with a knife, nail clippers, pencil, or whatever's on hand.

I've tried nail polish. I ended up picking it off and then chewing as usual, all without even thinking about what I was doing. I tried bad tasting stuff, but I chew anyway, ignoring the bad taste, again without thought. I've even tried gloves, but I end up taking them off almost immediately, as I need absolute precision for my career- I'm an artist.

I've also been through some other supposed cures. I had braces for two years; rather than making it harder for me to chew, I ended up just picking more effectively at my nails with the metal brackets. The same can be said for the retainer I now wear. I've tried replacing my habit with something else, like gum chewing, but I find myself still chewing my nails even when the gum is in my mouth.

I know exactly why I bite my nails. It isn't because I'm anxious, and it isn't a leftover habit from finger sucking, which I never did. I do it because I can't stand my nails to be at all uneven or sharp. If I develop a hangnail, I pick at it because it's an aberration. So i bite and bite, trying to even things out. But then the leading edge of my nail will get sharp or cracked, and I bite it back and scrape it smooth with my teeth, often causing more aberrations in the smoothness of the nail. It hurts like a mother, and it bleeds hideously, but I barely notice when I'm chewing my nails. And that's why nothing works. I don't realize I'm biting my nails until after the fact.

Don't get me wrong, I am VERY embarrassed by this habit, and always have been. I used to say I broke my nails playing with my dogs, or they got smashed in the door, and other things like that. More recently I've just been fessing up, but it still hurts and humiliated me to see people cringing at the sight of my hands. I was too embarrassed to get my nails done for prom, because I barely have any. I hate people watching me draw and sculpt, because they'll be focused on my hands. I sit with my hands curled into fists, so my nails are hidden. Nail biting is like alcoholism for me. Everybody knows I do it, I'm extremely embarrassed about it, but there's nothing I can do to quit. I'm too embarrassed even to go to a doctor about it, and WAY too embarrassed to go to a hypnotist. Also, there's the fact that I'm strapped for cash, and couldn't afford it anyway.

And so, I'm coming here for help. Is there anything I can do to try and kick this habit? I'm convinced that if I can grow them out and keep them tidy, I can stop my nail biting, but it's impossible for me as things stand right now. Please help!
34 Responses
Avatar universal
dear smartin, I bite my nails as well... well at least I used to. As far as I recall I haven't bit my nails in a few months now. I have no idea why I bit my nails, but I do know that it drove me crazy. My dad would lightly smack my hand whenever he saw me biting.:) have someone hold you accountable. Whenever you're around them and they see you biting have them stop you (not by smacking u but maybe telling you or something else :]) I always just thought about the fact that biting your nails could give you worms and that it is truly disgusting because u put your hands on anything and everything and then in your mouth. I also prayed tht God would help me stop. Another thing you can do is have someone treat you to a manicure if you don't bite your nails for a week. Maybe it's just me but I never wanted to ruin my manicure when someone else had paid for it. And if tht won't work pay for it yourself, a lot of times we only appreciate things when we sacrificed something for them. So if you sacrifice your money for a manicure, you should be willing to keep them looking nice. Keep a nail file around you always to smooth them out and have them not look jagged. Just don't file too much.

Hope this helps,

need more help?

Avatar universal
I used to bite my nails for the exact same reason and in the exact same way. I wouldn't realize what I was doing until I was bleeding. For me it began when I was about six, after watching Scooby Doo do it. Then it progressively got worse. It was like I had OCD. The moment I felt a point or rough edge I would chew my nails down to bloody stumps. I haven't completely stopped biting my nails but I have been able to stop hurting myself. I'd set a goal of no nail biting for a day, then another and another. After a while I'd be able to go weeks without biting. Also, I bought a little nail clipper and a fine nail file and wore it around my wrist on a chain. I'd also keep a piece of jewelers sand paper in my wallet. Keeping the clipper and file handy really helped A LOT. Like  I said before, I havent stopped biting them all together but I am able to control myself now. Sharp edges and lopsided nails still annoy the beans out of me but I think I have it handled. My nails have even begun to take a more "normal" shape now. I hope some of this helps. We should have something like "Nail Biters Anonymous" lol... Good luck and I hope you're able to get your nail biting under control soon. ;)
410922 tn?1263389743
extreme nail biting is actually a real disease with a name and everything. its called "Onychophagia". u can google that and u will get tons of advice on it and how to deal with it.

the only reason i know this is because i am in the process of getting my medical degree for pediatric diagnostics and we just talked about it n one of my classes thanks to my question about my sister who bites her nails just as bad as you have explained.

also, something maybe to try if u havent, my sister gets the artificial nails put on now and it helps her. she said theres something about having them on and feeling that something is there that makes her stop herself from chewing on her nails. maybe its because the nail tech does everything to make sure they are even and everything so u know theres nothing for u to worry about if its the unevenness that annoys u.

I hope something ive said will help.
203342 tn?1328737207
My teenage daughter noticed this as well. When she got the artificial nails for a special dance she didn't chew her nails the whole time she had them on. Of course, the artificial nails do damage and weaken your own nails, especially long term, but it's worth a try. It can at least get you out out of the habit so that when you do stop wearing the artificial nails, you won't bite your own anymore! Give it a try, can't hurt!
410922 tn?1263389743
i was doing to research about the artificial nails and i also talked to my sister about them.

turns out there's a newer kind of artificial nails that dont do as much damage because it doesnt use as many chemicals. it uses a different hardening agent and water instead of that stinky stuff.

and im sure if maybe letting the nails stay on for 2 weeks at a time, then taking them off for a little while would be the best..ur nails need to learn to be strong on their own eventually
Avatar universal
Hey I have a huge problem biting my nails Ive done it ever since ive been 5 years old and im now 15... i just bite my nails all the time, at school, at home, in the car everywhere! I have tried fake nails, stuff that tastes yucky in my mouth, my friends have tried to stop me too, but everytime they  turn away i bite or pick at them again! Please help me anyway you can! Thank you so much!
784382 tn?1376931040
ouch...that just looks painful.......better stop before you grow a finger in your stomach....lol
1157646 tn?1343967128
I used to bite my nails and have only recently stopped.  Im 19 and I would wear a rubber band on my arm and whenever anyone told me I was biting my nails I'd flick myself...It hurt but i dont bite my nails anymore.  Even now, I still have to keep my hands busy so I dont get back into the nail biting habbit.  Im not suggesting you flick yourself with a rubber band but maybe some sort of "punishment" or "payment" for biting your nails.  give it a shot.  Good luck!!
Avatar universal
I bite my nails for the same reasons as you mentioned, and I've been doing it since I was two (I'm 19 now). Although my nails aren't as short as yours, I also bite the skin around the nails, many times to the point of bleeding, and I've even lost a nail twice to infection. However, there have been two times that I stopped biting completely: when I got fake nails put on, and when I went to a counselor. There are nails you can get that don't damage your real ones...they're just plastic and you can apply them with a little drop of glue. I was going to a counselor for reasons other than the nail biting, but just getting things off my chest and talking about things that were bothering me in my life seemed to help a lot.

I hope you are able to stop, and I wish you success in your art career!
90309 tn?1209344288
Hi I wondered if you managed to stop biting ? mine are even worse than yours
god they hurt sometimes, throbbing pain that lasts for hours, I just have to get all my nails the same length, and hate any imperfections, Im constantly checking them, biting picking scraping at them, I also get very humilated if someone mentions my nails !
I guess its some form of OCD, as I also do the same with my toenails. ( yuk I know )
does anyone else bite this badly ? I'd love to hear from you if you do
lucyharris(AT)123mail.org  change the AT to @
Avatar universal
Many counselors will recommend applying a non-toxic gel to your finger tips and nails that has an unpleasant taste. Every time you go to bite your nails you will have a horrible taste in your mouth. If you apply the gel consistently that should cure that habit rather quickly. Emphasize- NON-TOXIC.
Avatar universal
Thanks for all the suggestions and support- I appreciate it. I haven't been able to stop biting my nails, but I'm trying really hard. Unfortunately, I accidentally cracked the length of my ring finger's nail about a week ago, and consequently attacked it until the whole nail had been entirely torn off. On the bright side, it ought to grow in nicely, so I'll probably be able to leave it alone without too much effort.

I would try artificial nails, but I don't know how much nail there actually needs to be to have them glued on. Some of my nails are painfully short- well, actually, most of them are. I guess I'll have to look into it.

Thanks again!
Avatar universal
I saw the picture, I've got the EXACT same problem, my nails (or lack of) are just like yours, down to the swollen tips and all that jazz. It was weird reading your post because I do the same things, I always close my hands in a fist so no one can see my fingernails, and I also used my braces to bite better, nothing seems to work.
Don't worry your certainly not alone!
Avatar universal
Avatar universal
This is the first time I've ever actually come across people who have a similar problem to me. When you search for help & solutions pictures come up of these barely-bitten nails and I instantly think "mine are SOOO much worse than that, there's no hope for me" I started biting them when I was about 4 or 5 and I'm 26 now  (eek) but there just HAS to be a way!

I wore fake nails that you buy at the chemist for a few years when I was 16/17 and took loads of time shaping and painting them so they looked real. Everyone used to comment about how amazing my nails were... But they would come loose, dirt would get under them, my real nailbed got infected sometimes and they took SO MUCG time. My real nails were wrecked afterwards with uneven ridges which just made me bite them more!

Now I want to try to stop again but I do it so constantly it's like it's part of me now. I'm going to try the icky tasting stuff (again) AND the accountability (you guys all know now!) AND rewards/punishments... If I can get them just a little longer I figure it will be less embarrassing and more empowering to go to a proper salon and see about acrylics (or just get regular manicures)

Keep going everyone. WE CAN DO IT!

p.s. please keep in touch or lend any advice you can, thanks!
ash.snow at localdial.com
1487841 tn?1294867967
i used to bite my nails i still do.... then i got gel and acrylic nails. and they help when i first got them on i would bite them off. but then i loved how they sounded when i clicked them on a surface. now a few months later maybe a year later i just recently got my nails done again and this is the first set that i have left on for more than a week. so maybe try that
Avatar universal

"So I bite and I bite, trying to even things out"..

Yes, that's the compulsive, OCD aspect of it..the other part is anxiety and fear..

I have been a compulsive nail biter since 5, I am now 52..
For the past five years due to high stress I have been a chronic biter often having ruined cuticles, damaged tips. brittle ends bleeding swollen, sore fingertips with varying layers of damaged nails..

Eventually, I hurt so bad it almost drove me crazy..I couldn't sleep and would
wake up in the night crying from the pain..

I think the nail polish method ( bitter tasting or not ) is probably the worst thing to try
especially if you like to continually "even things out"..nail polish flakes or chips and there
you go...OCD..eating the nail polish all off and heading right for the nails once the polish is gone..

I have no recommendations on how to stop as I think this problem correlates so
much with life and how stressful it can be on the more sensitive people in the world..

I will offer you my very best treatment to heal and soothe your fingers very, very quickly..
and if you continue to do this twice a day, it does take away the "anxious need" to bite
bite, bite because your fingers feel so good..


-Use a tupperware bowl with a lid, I use the ones that you can buy lunch meat in at the store..

-Fill 1/4th full with cool water, add 6-8 ice cubes..

-Take a medium stalk of aloe vera plant and cut into 8-10 chunks, then add to water..

-You can buy aloe stalks in the vegetable section at the grocery store or buy yourself
an aloe plant or if no plant available purchase a bottle of pure aloe gel in the suntan
section or pharmacy at the store..mix 1/4 cup of the bottled gel into the water..but the
plant is best to use by far..

-Place a small towel under the bowl, lay down on your back and relax..place your
right hand into the water..yes, it will be extremely cold at first, chronic biters will
love it, but dip your fingers in and out until you find your comfort zone..

-You will soak half an hour on each hand..add more ice if needed..

-While soaking, pick up a cold aloe chunk and stick your fingertip right through
the center of the chunk..Your fingertip will be surrounded with cold aloe gel which
is probably one of the most soothing sensations in the world..

-Alternate all fingers and your thumb so each one gets this treatment, if the chunk
"breaks" just wrap it around your nail area and hold it in place with your other fingers..

-Some aloe stalks have prickly points, just hold the chunks carefully and swirl
them and the ice around in the water with your fingers..

-Yes, it does feel rather weird to play with cold jelly..

-This is so soothing it may put you right to sleep if you are a chronic biter and in lots of pain..

-After one full hour of soaking, start pinching or squeezing the aloe chunks which releases
the inner pulp into the water, do not throw this water out..leave all the chunks and jelly water in the bowl..

-Put the lid on the bowl and stick in refrigerator.

-Soak again, one more time for this day..before bedtime is best, don't rinse
or wash your fingers until AM, just let them air dry then hit the hay..

-Soak twice again the next day using the same water..Add ice as you need it
depending on how badly inflamed your fingers are..mine are usually on fire so I love ice..

-By day three, you will not believe how much better your fingers will feel..the more
you soak, the more healing you will have..damage is repaired by day four as long
as you can keep from biting while healing..

-After day three the water starts to look like blood, it is very weird to see a pretty
green plant turn water to red..take it and water your aloe or other plants as it is
very good for them, too..

-At this point, my fingers usually feel so good I don't bite until my stress level
sky rockets again..I do recommend to keep soaking using a fresh aloe stalk
every three days as it is so good for you and your fingers..

-My alternative to this when I can't find aloe is a touch of cream or whole milk
added to the water and ice, same soak time..will leave your skin and nails soft
with less pain but you won't heal as you do when using the aloe plant..

-I hope this will help you to find some relief from the pain..

Avatar universal
yes I bite too! 33 years I am from europe, couldn't quit biting for over years. I guess 25y now..
What to do, what to do, sure you get used to your own finger nails, but i can image other people would think WTF?
Maybe i'll post a photo of my fingers (without nails lol) soon, my pinky is about 1mm at the moment 0,04 inch..?
Avatar universal
I have the same problem. The repetition just makes it worse. I quit for a month once because I was so ashamed and the guy I was dating had mentioned them (in a nice way). It was easy after the first couple of weeks, when they started looking good.

Unfortunately I started biting again as soon as the semester did. Sometimes I'll destroy all of them in one night, if I'm working on a paper or doing a take-home final. It's bad and not the only compulsive disorder I have. I also binge eat and pick my face sometimes, although these aren't as bad.

One thing that really HELPS for NAIL BITING is LOTION.
- It softens the skin and nail so less to pick at.
- It also burns if you've picked to much which definitely prevents you from making it worse.
- Lotions don't usually taste that great.

Hope this helps somebody... hang in there, you're not the only one.
1790633 tn?1328145000
omg that almost happened to me but yea i still bite my nail
Avatar universal
I quit after 25 years of chronic nail biting!

I started a gluten free diet and have not had the urge or desire to bite my nails or cuticles since! I didn't file my nails to make them smoother and less tempting.  

There are several studies over the past 10 years that talk about the correlation between gluten intolerance and anxiety.  Since anxiety is what chronic nail biting is considered I gave it a try as ridiculous as it sounds.

I hope this helps someone. If you are helped please drop me a comment on my blog because it would feel good to know it helped someone else. http://www.****.com

Avatar universal
I am looking for a way to stop my 7 year old from chewing away what is left of her nails. I could not think where she picked up the habit, but I just figured it out. Despite my nails looking fairly OK, I tend to bite my own hang-nails and any bits of loose or ragged skin around my nails myself, I just don't chew the main nail, but she probably saw my fingers go to my mouth many times. I think we should both get a manicure. Would she benefit from gel name tips to extend her short nails and would a professional consider doing it for a child?
Avatar universal
I have the same issue, I've picked and picked and picked until I've mutilated the nail causing emense pain. As you describes I've used knives and clippers and my own teeth. I do it with my toes as well, minus the biting, which has given me ingrown nails. It's an odd thing, I see one hangnail so I try to remove it, end up making it worse, and for some reason can't help but to maticulously inspect my other nails, inevitably find an "issue" and start at them as well. It's mostly the cuticles that drive me crazy, especially when they look uneven, or at peeling up. I go in phases, on and off. When I'm really busy, it seems like I forget about them and my nails grown without me messing with them. I went for almost a year last time before I messed them up last time. I've been jobless for about six months now so my nails are destroyed. I'm also an artist and have had to work with stinging fingers, it *****. I start a new job tomorrow so maybe it will help being busy agian.
Avatar universal
I also have the same issue, or well did. I know there are alot of techniques people claimed worked for them. However i was a chronic nail biter, i had a problem typically known as Onychophagia to the medical world. There is no specific cure for nail biting, but i can share with you a few techniques i used to help me.

Firstly: Keep track of your progress, so wait until a specific date (1st of the month is a good one, or first day of the week) and tell yourself ok im gonna stop biting my nails today. Buy a cheap calendar or make one or just keep track of the days with a diary or notepad. Then for everyday you didn't bite give yourself a tick or smiley face or whatever on your calendar, so you get that sense of achievement, which will hopefully help you stop biting for a few days, then weeks, then months until finally you dont feel the urge anymore.

Ok secondly: Pictures, this might sound silly but take pictures of your nails, look at the damage you are causing to yourself. Imagine yourself with pretty and healthy nails. Hopefully seeing the damage and knowing the pain your a suffering will be enough to motivate you to stop.

What i did to help me stop was combining the 2 above techniques. When i started the calendar/diary, i took a photo of my damaged nails. As the days went on i could see the smiley faces next to all the dates i didnt bite on, and every week or so, or whenever i felt my nails where making progress i would take another photo and keep imagining what they are going to be like when they are pretty and healthy. Eventually after just over 6 weeks i completely removed the urge to bite my nails, i no longer feel uncomfortable talking to people or allowing them to see my hands. I haven't even attempted to bite a single nail for over 3 years now, i was a chronic nail biter for at least 10 years.

I just hope everyone can manage to accomplish the achievement i accomplished. So you can be happy with your new healthy nails. Good luck! Dean.
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