People have different ways of coping with stress. Some shop, some eat, some smoke, while others bite their nails. Nail-biting or onychophagia affects 30 percent of children between 7 to 10 years old and 45 percent of teenagers. If you're a nail biter yourself, you will find the following tips helpful in getting rid of your nail-biting compulsion.
Cover your fingernails or mouth:
Since nail-biting involves your fingernails and your mouth, why not stop the habit by making it impossible to bite your nails? This can be done by covering your fingernails, mouth or both.
* Artificial nails: For women, wearing artificial fingernails can prevent nail-biting since the artificial nails remind you of your goal, or they may taste bad because of their composition.
* Gloves: Keep gloves in your back pocket and wear them whenever you feel the urge to bite your nails.
* Stickers and tape: Try putting little stickers or pieces of tape on the ends of your fingers to remind you of the nasty consequences of nail-biting.
* Bitter polishes: A good trick is to coat your nails with a bad-tasting substance, so that when you unconsciously bite them, you will immediately stop because of the bad taste. There are many commercial bitter-tasting polishes that have this effect. Apply a polish several times a day on your nails, and get ready to replace it when you get used to the taste.
* Nail jewelry: Wear some jewels on your nails since these are hard to bite. They might even come off in your mouth, and the risk of choking might scare you into quitting.
* Mouthpiece: Covering your teeth with a retainer also makes it harder to bite. Aside from retainers, there are also special mouthpieces available that keep you from nail-biting.
Improve your nails and self-image:
Getting rid of nail-biting often has to do with improving your overall self-image. Once you look and feel good about yourself, you will eventually see nail-biting as a self-destructive act, and have the willpower to counter it.
* Make your nails look great: Polish your nails and apply some petroleum jelly on them to make them shiny and fragrant. It's more difficult to bite your nails when they look great.
* Visualize: Always visualize yourself with healthy and attractive nails to keep you from relapsing into your habit.
* Display your nails: Show off your improved nails to your friends and family members to get some encouragement and praise.
* Keep your nails healthy: Keep looking after your nails and maintain their health to reinforce your healthy nail habits. It also helps to regularly cut your fingernails with a nail clipper. You can't bite anything if there's nothing there.
Stay focused on your goal:
The only way to get rid of any kind of bad habit is to find a way to will yourself to do the right thing. To get rid of your nail-biting, you must stay focused on your goal despite the strong unconscious urge to destroy your nails.
* Discuss your goal: Always talk to your friends and family members about your nails and how you're doing with your self-treatment. Ask them for their suggestions, and discuss your goals with them. Conversations like this will remind your of your goal, reducing your chance of relapse.
* Go slowly: One effective technique in getting rid of nail-biting is to protect one nail at a time. Choose one nail to protect and never to bite for a couple of days. Bite any of your fingernails except this nail, and keep it clean make it look good. This one nail should look very nice and give you a rewarding feeling. Next, choose another nail to protect for a couple of days; so this time, you're protecting two nails. Do this until you're protecting all of your nails, and you don't feel the need to bite your nails anymore.
* Take pictures: Get a camera and take some before-and-after pictures of your nails. Look at these pictures daily to remember the ugly effects of nail-biting.
* Break records: Challenge yourself to break your own records. For instance, how many hours can you go without taking a bite? If you feel like you can go without nail-biting for a day, ask yourself next how many days you can go without nail-biting. Then, extend the challenge to a week, two weeks, and until you no longer need challenges to stop you from nail-biting.
* “Punish” yourself: Confront setbacks as quickly as possible. You may try to “punish” yourself a bit if you bite your nails during your self-treatment program. You can do more chores or do some heavy tasks to discourage yourself further from relapsing.
Nail-biting is associated with periods of anxiety, nervousness, stress, boredom, or hunger. All of these circumstances produce stress, which your body tries to relieve through nail-biting. The following are stress-management techniques to help you eliminate your habit.
* Meditate: Reflect deeply on your life and how you started nail-biting. Since nail-biting is mostly an emotional problem, there may be an underlying cause of stress. Getting rid of your habit might become easier if you can find out what fuels your unconscious desire.
* Be in control: Self-awareness is key to having control over your urges. Always check your level of stress, and make sure to do something about it if you feel stressed out.
* Be patient: Nail-biting doesn't disappear overnight. Since it's likely that this is a habit you've had since childhood, it helps to realize that there is no short-term solution to this problem. Be patient and don't let your relapses frustrate you even further.
* Relieve your stress: Substitute nail-biting with another kind of stress-relieving activity such as squeezing a stress ball or painting. Just make sure that whatever activity you replace nail-biting with, it's not self-destructive; otherwise, you've just replaced one bad habit with another.
Keep your hands and mouth busy:
Some people don't feel like they are stressed out at all when they bite their fingernails. They merely developed the habit as a response to boredom or idleness. Here are some tricks to keep your hands and mouth too busy for nail-biting.
* Find a new habit: Your new habit should be a good one, or at least not self-destructive. Try drumming your fingernails or chewing gum. Whenever you feel like biting your nails, just whip out your gum and start chewing.
* Dabble in art: If you're artistic, doing some clay or plaster art will keep your hands too busy and dirty for nail-biting. The taste and smell of clay or plaster will remain on your hands long after you've washed them, so your fingernails will taste bad when you put them in your mouth.
* Keep your mind and body busy: Even if you're not artistic, there are many other hobbies that will keep your mind from your responding to your urges. For example, you can try knitting, crocheting, drawing, martial arts, or running. Anything that will make your hands and your entire body work will help reduce or eliminate nail-biting.
Other Treatments for Nail-biting:
Aside from the self-treatment methods mentioned above, there are other techniques to get rid of nail-biting that require the help of an expert or a medical professional. The following methods may be more effective or less effective depending on your treatment response.
* Hypnotherapy: It may sound unusual, but lots of nail-biters have successfully removed their habit using hypnosis programs. Since nail-biting is oftentimes a subconscious activity, it's helpful to tackle it using methods that operate subconsciously. Hypnotherapy helps you cope with stress in a more positive way. You have the option to either go to a hypnotherapist for a personal session or purchase a hypnotherapy tape for convenience.
* Behavioral Therapy: This method, which is also sometimes called habit reversal training, consists of techniques to unlearn the habit of nail-biting. It's basically the same as the above-mentioned techniques, but it's done with the guidance of a medical professional. Behavioral therapy usually works better when combined with medications.
* Medications: Doctors may prescribe a variety of anti-depressants to treat nail-biting, including: nefazodone, venlafaxine, escitalopram, and fluoxetine. They may also prescribe some anti-psychotics, such as: olazapine, risperidone, and ziprasidone. These are prescribed not because the patient has psychosis, but only to increase the power of the treatment program. Take note that you should never take any of these drugs before consulting your doctor.
While all of these techniques work wonders in getting rid of nail-biting, nothing beats sheer willpower for eliminating any bad habit. If you will yourself to care for your body more, then your nail-biting habit should disappear soon. Good luck!
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