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Nail Biting…A Tough Habit to Kick!

Photo by Flikr user Crysco Photography
Photo by Flikr user Crysco Photography

Beware: This post will get graphic, so do not continue reading if you’re squeamish. At the beginning of 2nd grade, I embarked on what would become a lifetime journey of biting my nails. I started out by just putting my fingers in my mouth and nibbling at the tops of my nails, but this quickly progressed to an obsessive level. By age 11, I began peeling my nails with my teeth until they were deformed and brittle. And yet, it became even worse. By the time I entered freshman year, I was also gnawing and ripping my cuticles and the skin surrounding my nails. To be honest, I have a whole family of neurotic, anxious nail-biters, but my habit was especially bad.

For weeks at a time, my fingers would be sore, red, swollen, bloody and raw.  Much to my mother’s chagrin, nothing helped me stop—not the bad tasting nail polish, not wearing gloves to bed, not carrying around little toys to keep my fingers distracted, not sitting on my hands, nothing. My mom complained about all the dangers of nail biting, but I ignored her.

Not even the grossest horror stories about nail biting could deter me from my habit. My second-grade teacher, for example, was living in Kenya, and I learned that she had accidentally ingested a tapeworm egg that had been under her fingernail because she couldn’t stop biting her nails. And you guessed it, the tapeworm eventually grew to adulthood inside her stomach. Vomit. Literally.

Not only do I look like a nervous, unhygienic freak with my fingers constantly in my mouth, but I have also exposed myself to a variety of gross side effects. My parents, grandparents, friends and even teachers have been nagging me to keep my fingers out of my mouth for upwards of ten years. But authority figures yelling at me just bothers me, even if they’re trying to help. So what really works?

Here is a positive and uplifting list of suggestions that may work for less obsessive biters. For my fellow habitual and compulsive biters, however, I have only found two tips that work, and only briefly. You either get beautiful manicures once a week, or you dip your nails in pepper or fish oil everyday. These two methods keep your fingers out of your mouth as a quick fix, but the only real solution is sheer will power.

Don’t ruin your beautiful hands! Don’t start this horrible habit! I have gross, dilapidated fingers. Don’t be like me. Be better.