Have you ever heard of onychophagia? Probably not. But almost everyone knows someone who bites their fingernails. If you bite your nails you are not alone. This is a dirty little secret of a large number of people. Nail biting is a universal behavior in all parts of the world and in both sexes. It is slightly more common in males than females. Nail biting often begins in childhood with studies showing that between 23 and 33 percent of children between ages 7 and 10 are nail biters. The number of nail biters reaches its peak with 44 percent of adolescents biting their nails. Even 19 to 29 percent of young adults and up to 20 percent of all adults still bite their nails.
Noone is quite sure why people bite their nails. Years ago, the Freudian view described nail biting as an oral fixation. This psychological view of nail biting is no longer particularly popular. Today experts lean to behavioral and biochemical reasons for nail biting. Many experts believe nail biting is caused by biochemical and genetic links or is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Although nail biting may seem like a relatively unimportant behavior, there can be problems. My clients give me a lot of reasons they want to quit biting their nails. They often describe it as a dirty, nasty habit. It is definitely a way to transfer germs from the hands and nails to the mouth. It can be sore and uncomforable causing swelling and redness. The broken skin can lead to infections. Many clients hate that their hands are unattractive. A trial lawyer told me he did not want to appear anxious and nervous and that unattractive chewed-on nails didn't project the image he wanted. Others say the behavior itself with fingers in their mouths is unpleasant.
There are several ways to stop biting your nails. They range from putting bitter or hot liquids such as pepper sauce on their nails to using medications commonly prescribed to treat OCD. Hypnotherapy is a great tool to deal with nail biting. No meds - no burning lips - just a strong tool to stop nail biting.