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Why Do We Bite Our Nails?
9 Jan. 2016

why do bite our nailsNail biting is an unpretty, unhygienic, and if you overdo it, it can also be quite a painful habit. It is rather common among both children and grown-ups, there is even a special medical term for excessive nail biting – onychophagia.

So why do people bite their nails? Scientists still do not know what makes people do it. Some researchers claim that this habit is hereditary, while others say that it is a learned habit. Although, there is a bunch of theories trying to explain nail biting.

Thinking too hard or being too stressed
One of the most common theories says that the habit of nail biting can develop due to stress. People bite nails to prevent stress, they do it to relax when they are too nervous. Some bite their nails because it helps them think.

Oral fixation
Psychotherapists, of course, have their own theories on that score. Sigmund Freud attributed this habit to arrested psychological and sexual development at the so-called oral stage (the period of child development from the birth to about 18 months of age). Oral fixation is linked to lots of causes such as breastfeeding for too long or problems in the relationship with your mother, etc.. According to Freud, this fixation has a whole set of symptoms – nail biting, a sarcastic temper, smoking, alcohol dependence syndrome and even love to oral sex.

Another theory links nail biting to a splash of aggression directed inward against the self. It is an inward hostility, a light form of self-mutilation, which means that a person who bites nails has some issues with himself or herself, and he or she is busy with self-accusations and self- torture.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder
healthy nails
Psychiatrists classify this habit as a problem with the control over impulses, like in the case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It occurs when people start having obsessive and disturbing thoughts and ideas and in order to control anxiety they develop different rituals – touching things, pulling hair or biting nails. But, all that concerns only bad cases of OCD when psychiatric help is required. About 45% of adolescents bite their nails and many of them can cause a lot of troubles, but it does not mean that almost half of people in this age need urgent medical assistance!

However, no matter what is the root cause of this bad habit, it results in not only unkempt nails but also in harmful microbes penetrating the body through small fissures on the tips of one’s fingers. This habit can infect the nail-biter with parasites as well.

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