Conditions

Nail Biting

Nail biting

It’s estimated that half of all children and teenagers gnaw their nails at some point, and many will carry on the habit into adulthood. Kids do it when they are stressed, anxious, bored, depressed or excited. Like thumbsucking, hair chewing and other nervous habits, nail biting is comforting. Unlike those other bad habits, nail-biting opens up the risk of infection – in the fingers themselves if they bleed, and more generally because nails can carry germs and bacteria which then enter the body. This is especially hazardous if kids don’t wash their hands properly after going to the toilet.

Kids can start biting their nails as soon as their nails and teeth are strong enough. Often they don’t just bit the nails themselves, but also the skin around them, which becomes sore, bleeds and peels away from the finger the more they chew. So what can parents do about it?

Early intervention is best. Try to stop kids as soon as you see the habit developing, and the best way to do that is to get them to try to explain why they do it. Then set boundaries by asking them not to do it in certain situations, and gradually extend them.

Nail-nibbling is a hard habit to break, not just because of the compulsive nature of the behaviour, but because often kids do it subconsciously. They may not really be aware it’s happening. Like giving up smoking in adults, good old-fashioned willpower is often the key.

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Please note: Unfortunately Channel 4 cannot respond to individual inquiries. If you have any concerns, you can check out NHS Choices, but ultimately it is always best to check with a health professional.

My grandfather used bite his nails. He was about 20 when he stopped. To stop got a big packet of gum and chew it most of the time. He then decreased the amount he chewed gradually until he no longer bit his nails. He then had a minor habit to the gum. What he did to combat the was eat to a compensate for the chewing, which in turn made him do more exercise which then made him healthier and he hasn't bitten his nails or chewed gum in the past 50 years





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My son is six years old and has the horrible habit of biting the skin around his fingernails and his fingertips. It looks very painful, and his cuticles even look infected. I feel like I am at my wit's end. Please help!





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Your son has dermatophagia. I am aged 20 and have been doing this my whole life. It's related to OCD and stress or anxiety. I hope this has helped you

I have bitten my nails for such a long time how do I stop?





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I have been biting mine since I can remember, I never ever bite my nails just the skin around until its so so sore. I'm now 18 and no signs o it passing I do think this Is a compulsive dissorder as when I see a peice of skin hanging off I have thoughts of bad things happning if I don't bite it & if my fingers are ever to sore I bite the side of my tounge instead will this ever go away? or do I need help





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I always bite my nails an my mum shouts at me so its not very encouraging and i tried putting something in my hand to distract it an i carry around a book saying methods to stop biting nails and when i feel like biting i look in the book but plz help me...thanks





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Hiya where can you get cheap nail cream stuff from? please as cheap as possible





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Hi I'm 36 years old and I've been biting the skin around my fingers for as long as I can remember. It's not all the time that I do it, if my nails look nice then I don't do it as much. At the moment most of my fingers are red, inflamed and really sore. I don't know how to stope myself doing it, is there anything I can buy to put on my skin to stop me biting them





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I'm an adult guy who has got to be one of the worst nail biters ever. I can understand why any bad nail biter can get embarrased when people notice them biting or look at their nasty stumps. My habit is so bad that I do it all the time and don't care if people notice my nubs or remark if I bite in front of them. Ironically, I'm an educated professional and married guy in good athetic, physical shape. Long ago I realized I'm a hard-wired, incorrigible nail biter and accepted myself as such.





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Does anyone know if nail butti is an early sign of autism? My toddler has just turned 18months this week and I have notice that she has been nibbling and biting at her nails for the last few weeks, she has never had any oral fixations ie dummy or sucker her fingers or thumb or comfort so this seems a very new thing that we don't see as something he has picked up from ourselves as we don't bite our nails. I am asking generally about nail bitting at such a young age as it seems so early but also coupled with very frequent tip toe walking and seemingly above average intellegance I am curious if there might be more I need to think about? Has anyone encountered these things? Thanks mum of 1 rainbow and 3 angels





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I'm seventeen and I bite the skin around my nails and have for a very long time. With me, it's an anxiety thing that grows worse when I'm stressed. As this is a toddler, I would say that it could be to do with anxiety, or it could just be something that she is doing subconsciously as my cousins do the same. Also, just because she hasn't observed the behaviour in you or your partner, doesn't mean that she hasn't seen another child or different adult biting their nails and learned from them. For the tip-toe walking that could just be novelty. There's a lot of debate about whether intelligence is linked with autism, but if you're really worried then I would visit a doctor, although most symptoms only become noticeable at around three years of age. It's difficult for someone to diagnose your child without knowing her. These could just be quirks/phases/novelties.

Help I've bitten my nails and the skin around them and on my knuckles for three years. I've tried: varnish, disgusting tasting stuff, plasters, will power, stuff that makes them grow and skin healing lotion.Takes too long, doesn't work, many more excuses. HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PLZ! :(





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I have not bitten my nails for 13 weeks. I am 50 years old. My nails were extremely badly bitten. I believe my success is down to 3 things - 1. really wanting to do it. 2. Getting a very helpful book on stopping nail biting and follwing it's advice and 3. being put on antidepressants by my doctor.Although I was put on the medication for depression not nailbiting, I think this has been a cruicial element in my ability to stop nail biting. Did you have unbitten nails prior to three years ago? have you developed a minor mental health problem - some depression or anxiety maybe? just a thought. I have had low grade but persistent depression/anxiety for most of my adult life but I have always refused medication. I went on the tablets last April, mainly for the sake of my family as I wasn't much fun to live with. Stopping nail biting has been a lovely 'side-effect' of feeling happier and calmer. But I've also put loads of effort into it as well - there are no quick fixes. Sending you a virtual hug.

Dermatophagia is an anxiety disorder in which sufferers typically bite their skin around their nails, fingers and hands. If the normal treatments aren't working then see a doctor. They could perscribe medication or have you see a psychologist (this is usually only necessary in severe cases) for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which will alter your behaviour. If you don't fancy either of those then I would ask your friends and family to tell you to stop whenever they see you do this. This should provide incentive for you to stop if it is continued for long enough. Hope this helps.


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