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Common Causes of Nail Biting Explained

Nail biting

It is the hard-to-break habit that many of us turn to without realising.

And research has revealed there could be more to biting our nails than meets the eye.

Often seen as a sign of stress or nerves, some theories hold that nail biting could instead be an indicator of sexual development or a sign of perfectionism.

NAIL BITING AS A SIGN OF STRESS OR ANXIETY
The most common explanation for biting our nails is that it is a habit we turn to when stressed or anxious.

While it is not known why we turn to this habit in particular, it appears to act as a stress-relieving action similar to hair twisting, nose picking or teeth grinding.
There seems to be something in the satisfaction of biting off a nail that helps to cope with difficult situations.

NAIL BITING AS A LEARNED BEHAVIOUR

Nail biting has been classified as a form of ‘pathological grooming’ by the American Psychiatric Association.
It is classified under the umbrella of obsessive compulsive disorders, alongside the habit of pulling out strands of hair and the habit of picking off scabs.
Some psychologists hold that it is a behaviour children first learn to mimic by watching adults, which then becomes an automatic practice.

NAIL BITING AS AN INDICATOR OF SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT
Celebrated psychologist Sigmund Freud theorised that the habit of nail biting was a sign of an unhealthy relationship with your mother.
Along with symptoms such as chewing gum and overeating, Freud believed the habit stemmed from early events such as the child not getting enough attention from their mother.
Similar theories suggest nail biting is an act of self-mutilation carried out as an internal punishment, although there is little evidence to prove either of these explanations.

NAIL BITING AS A SIGN OF PERFECTIONISM
A study published last year found that nail biting could actually arise as a sign of perfectionism rather than anxiety.
It found that biting nails and similar behaviours were performed by perfectionists when they became bored or irritated.
The study found that nail biters were typically very organised, easily frustrated, and that nail biting distracted their thoughts in difficult situations.

 


As it appeared on Daily Mail UK

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