Strategies to stop nail biting

Don’t let your cuticles be your next meal

Tabasco is an ineffective way to break the nail biting habit. (Flickr/Mike Mozart)

Tabasco is an ineffective way to break the nail biting habit. (Flickr/Mike Mozart)

Nail biting, maybe you had the habit or maybe you didn’t. The technical term for it is onychophagia, and it affects 20 to 30 per cent of the general population. It also affects my beloved boyfriend, to whom I dedicate this piece. 

The common technique in my household was to put Tabasco sauce on the offender’s nails. However, this only resulted in an increased tolerance and taste for spice, and simply added a little somethin’ somethin’ to the already bad habit.

Keep your nails trimmed short? It might work, until your busy schedule pushes back your cuticle cut and then boom, it’s time to munch.

Apply bitter nail polish? It is a better strategy than Tabasco, as it is usually not the taste of something edible. But this requires upkeep that you may fall back on, just like keeping your nails trimmed. 

There are some more effective techniques though. 

Having a loving partner who will help you through these trying times? That could work! Having a partner who will verbally or physically stop you each time they see you chowing down on your nails will make you more cognizant of when you are biting. But this does run the risk of manifesting in greater attempts to hide the bad habit.

In seriousness, the root of the problem is always the best way to find the best solution.

To break it down, nail-biting consists of three major components: nails, teeth, and crippling, deep-rooted childhood issues that you never resolved from that one fight you got in with your parents that has stuck with you ever since and you don’t need to see a psychologist or talk about it cause you’re doing okay and “please don’t worry about it.” 

Logically we can break the habit by removing one of these components. First would be removing your nails. Now, this would be the simplest solution because no nails also means no nails to bite. But this would be an incorrect assumption.

Nails are important. They protect the squishy and delicate fingertips, and good luck pulling out a splinter without nails.

Next considered is teeth. This is much more viable, though your initial reaction would be, ‘but I need to eat!’ That is only half the picture, removable dentures exist, and you can put them in when you need to eat, or just stick with smoothies.

Picture it. You go out for a nice dinner and it’s going well, your date is your type and can’t keep their eyes off of you. You order your meals amid some flirty banter, which continues until your food comes out. 

“Give me a sec,” you say, pulling out a sleek black case from your coat. You open it up to reveal your teeth, putting them in and flashing the first full smile of the night to your date.

They’re entranced.

By your winning smile, or utter confusion with mild disgust, you can’t tell. But hey, at least you’re not biting your nails! 

I think we have a winner here: the alternative is therapy, but that takes a while.