A Real Nail-biter

I am a married man who has been a compulsive nail-biter since childhood.  My mother constantly nagged me about it.  My father insisted I would outgrow it.  It became such an issue that I thought there were something seriously wrong with me.  When I turned 30, I decided to get professional help and saw a psychiatrist.  When I met him, I noticed that his fingernails were bitten to disgusting nubs worse that mine, and stormed out of his office.  On the advice of my personal physician (who always said I should stop worrying about the habit) I saw another shrink who had sterling creditials.  He counseled  that there is nothing wrong with me, that I fall into a statistical subgroup of individuals worldwide who likely will always be habitual nail-biters.  He said that possibly I could be de-programmed through hypnosis but that the success rate for that was not encouraging; also, that I could stop the habit for no apparent reason at any time or continue the habit for life.  In the final analysis he said I should stop worrying about the stigma associated with the habit and go about enjoying me life.  I followed his advice.  I still bite my nails 20 years later. but no longer worry about it.   

lawguy08 lawguy08
8 Responses Aug 28, 2008

My husband and his sister are chronic nail biters AND they chew on the skin all around their nails and finger tips. They chew rather large peices off until they actually bleed. I don't want to be rude but it bothers me, especially when he moves the pieces of skin between his front teeth. YUCK!!! <br />
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I am also concerned that he chews because he has 'bad nerves'. I often ask him if something is bothering him if I notice that he is chewing excessively. Over the years I have realized that when he is worried about something he chews more so maybe there is a relationship between the two.<br />
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I also worry about all of the germs on everything and since he doesn't wear gloves(lol), he is ingesting more than one who does not chew...<br />
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I will tell him about the teeth/chewing problem and suggest that he speaks with his dentist about this. Thx for the info... ei

I am an ethnic minority within a minority and living in the United States. I find that people will amplify or magnify anything that isn't perfect about me or any shortcomings I may have. People will scrutinize me in order to find some fault in order to judge me. I am talking about complete strangers. I used to be anxious and seek perfection but no one can be and it isn't worth getting an ulcer about. If they can find no fault to speak of, they will project their own shortcomings, faults, character traits, hidden thoughts, etc., the so called "shadow side" of their personality onto me. That is unfortunately the world we live in. In a measure, the stress leads to nail biting. I am not so unfortunate, though, that I have lost my mind or become a drug addict or alcoholic; which seems to be the fashion in our country due to the stress and anxiety which go hand in hand with being the most competitive society on earth.

PS: The worst thing perhaps about biting nails is the fact that it amounts to grinding your teeth. The newer video cameras in the dental offices can magnify the damage done so that it can clearly be seen. I don't like having clearly bitten nails because in a sense the whole activity remind me of how toddlers will go about sucking their thumb. Perhaps I am being a little too harsh regarding the activity. I will not eat with a woman seated opposite me in a restaurant but prefer that she eat at my side owing to self consciousness. I do believe I will quit again because the harm that it does to my self esteem is much worse than the harm that it does to my nails.

I disagree to the extent you should not feel self-conscious about biting your nails, or at least showing your bitten nails in public. Your attitude caused me a lot of pain until I realized that trying to hide the habit made me self-conscious and miserable. I decided at that point that I would live with the habit since I could not control the urge to bite my nails. That self-awareness lifted a heavy burden of guilt and shame. Most people accept me for the person I am and my nail biting is incidental. I can't speak for you about overcoming your self-consciousness but wish you the best of luck.

I had managed to stop biting my nails in the past and I am trying to stop again. I find that it is the most embarrassing habit that I have and I imagine that people are sometimes wondering that if I lack the self-control to keep my nails out of my mouth, then what else must I be doing? A cashier in a restaurant saw my nails and proceded to treat my hands as if they belonged to a leper. She touches money all day long; she is a married woman and I can only imagine that she has stuck her finger up her husband's rear end at some time or another, so I simply exaggerated a gesture indicating that I was as concerned about touching her hands as she was about touching mine.

Thanks for your comments. It is good to have an intelligent conversation on this topic . Viewed ob<x>jectively, nail-biting is a disgusting, unhygienic habit. On the other hand, we live in an organic world where we have constant exposure to pathogens. <br />
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My biggest concern is the effect that the habit has had on my front teeth. I have had veneer work to cover the chips and stress fractures but cosmetic dentistry cannot withstand my constant nail-biting. My denstist said I will eventually need crowns. <br />
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I suppose I love to eat my nails and nothing can deter me. Until I naturally lose the urge, I will continue to do it. Despite the habit, I am a normal, healthy, and athletic man. At least I was able to quit a heavy smoking habit after 20 years, which began at about age 12. I lost the urge when I developed a chronic sinus condition.

Did you tell the psychiatrist why you were storming out of his office? It is interesting, because the former President of Serbia Radovan Karadzic, now on trial in the Hague, is a qualified psychiatrist AND WAS ALSO A NAIL-BITER! Apparently, during the siege of Sarajevo, he bit and bit his nails till they were really extreme AND BLEEDING. That is what a BBC correspondent said in a recent documentary. His nails were extreme - I mean, far shorter than mine anyway, I admit that mine are not extreme at the moment. During the siege of Sarajevo, Karadzic's nails were apparently about as extreme as the most extreme photos you'll ever see in this forum. Anyway, I've studied recent photos of him, and he appears to have kicked the habit during his years on the run.

it must be a great comfort to be ok about your nail biting, mine are so ugly and painful, i'm reminded of them constantly, I hide my hands most of the time, and should someone comment on them, I go scarlet instantly

Strange you state this as you are well known in the nail biting Internet circles as a person who collects hundreds of photos of bitten nails, toe nails included, and you have stated many times, again throughout the Internet, how bitten nails are your preference.
Hiding something here?

Thanks for sharing your story.<br />
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I've always been a nail biter too. i guess it will always bother me. No one has ever given me a hard time about it, I just personally feel bad about it....but it's one habit I can't seem to stop for long.