Still Biting Your Nails?

Typical teenage angst leads many young people to develop the habit of nail biting, but did you know that approximately 25% of people carry this issue into early adult life? Whether due to anxiety, nervousness, boredom, or other deep-rooted issues, nail biting continues to be a common problem amongst young professionals. Beyond the psychological and emotional concerns that often lead to nail biting, there are additional problems specific to YPs that give us reason to kick this icky issue.

Sickening, literally      
We all know that biting our nails is considered a bad habit, but do you know just how dangerous it can be for your health? Firstly, biting nails and cuticles can lead to infection, even nail loss, but if that isn’t enough to convince you, also consider the amount of germs… meaning bacteria and viruses that live under our nails. Even with usual hand washing and disinfecting, biting our nails can leads to annoying colds, debilitating flues, or worse. Additionally and surprisingly, nail biting can even lead to dental issues. After years of chewing on fingernails, teeth can become worn, weak, and even crooked. If you are one of the many YPs that once had braces, you know the time and money it took to make those teeth straight and beautiful. Don’t screw yourself (and piss off your parents) by ruining your smile due to habitual nail biting.    

A reason to judge
In the cutthroat world of young professionals, appearance counts. Chewed up nails are not only unsightly but can be easily judged by others as a sign of weakness, limited self control, or immaturity. You may not actually have any of these characteristics, but biting your fingernails creates physical evidence that could be perceived as such. Further, due to the habitual and often unconscious nature of nail biting, you may be participating in the self-soothing habit in front of others without even knowing it – and no one wants to see that.    

How to get over it
In a recent Notable article (Stop Screwing Up) we discussed tips to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. These steps can also be followed to help kicking bad habits, such as nail biting. Recognition of the issue, making a conscious decision and the effort to change, and holding yourself publicly accountable are helpful strategies. But because many YPs have been biting their nails for nearly their entire lives, the practice has become so ingrained that some engage in it without even knowing. So, in addition to our committed desire and effort to stop, some other useful tricks are often needed, such as ways to keep our hands busy during times of stress, and learning better ways to cope with anxiety. Taking pride in the appearance of our nails is one helpful approach. Treat yourself to a manicure and make a new, positive habit of maintaining this clean and healthy look. Also, try rubbing a worry stone during those tense or boring meetings, wearing gloves while you read, or write that complicated report… and consider seeking professional guidance to dive into the reasons why this common teenage habit continues to have a hold on your otherwise-awesome YP self.