The scientific term for nail biting is onychophagy, it is often linked with obsessive-compulsive disorder and is a common enough practice; a study shows that a staggering thirty-three percent of adults are nail biters. Some to the point of chewing their nails off and skin as well, sometimes to the point of leaving their fingers bleeding and hurt. Nail biters are also often aware of the wear they put their fingers too and are often embarrassed by their hands, keeping them to themselves in public.
But the question is, what provokes a person to adopt this habit in the first place? What is the psychology behind it? Well, onychophagy hasn’t been taken up as a serious issue till now and not a lot of research has been done on its causes, so it eludes us to this date, but here we’ve compiled some of the leading theories and causes that psychologists believe may be why we end up nail-biting.
9. IMPAIRED MOTHER-CHILD RELATIONSHIP:
Psychologists believe that nail-biting may be an adverse effect to a dis-functioning mother-child relationship. The child might have been overfed or underfed or breastfed for a long time that required, according to psychologist Sigmund Freud, this may be accompanied by smoking, addiction, and a sarcastic personality. He also argues that this may be because of the mental health of the mother as well if she is unstable and sadistic, the child leans towards nail-biting more than an average one would. (Note that this kind of nail-biting refers to the more injurious kind, in which the child or teenager or even adult ends up biting away at flesh and harming himself or herself.)
Among the leading causes of nail-biting, perfectionism has taken a top seat. Perfectionists are rushy and goal driven, they set huge expectations for themselves and unfortunately being only human are often disappointing, leading to a constant sense of disappointment with themselves. It is observed that most perfectionists are also nail biters, a good large portion of them, this strengthens the theory that nail-biting finds its root in stress, which may be of the workplace and can stem from something more personal. (Note: This does not include injurious nail biting.)
Loneliness is often a causative of many odd habits, these can include anxiety, odd thoughts, nail biting is one of these things. Humans are social animals, they require a certain amount of interaction to live a happy, healthy life. Loneliness is a leading cause of destructive behavior, in emphatic personalities that tilt mostly towards the more feeling type, it can be crucial to their mental health. In children, being alone leads to under-development and lack in intelligence. And nail-biting has been seen in among all these mental issues, it is believed it may be a consequence of this particular problem.
6. STRESS AND ADRENALINE:
Stress is the commonly believed factor that influences nail-biting and with good reason as well. Studies have shown that most nail-biters are stressed out. Nail-biting is common among risk-taking enthusiasts; such as race-car drivers and snowboarders. So, it is often theorized that maybe adrenaline rushes are what influence people to bite nails. It is often viewed as a way to cope with stress.
Psychologists have theorized the various reasons why people may bite their nails, in many cases, they believe it is simply because of habit. First of all, putting your hands into your mouth is easy, it gives you a kind of relief, secondly, it can be viewed as a way of cleaning one’s nails up, your teeth are readily available why not use them to cut your nails? It can be a way of getting rid of boredom, or simply a habit you started off on for no reason at all.
4. CAN BE IN SYNC WITH A NERVOUS DISORDER:
Nail biting is often linked with anxiety and depression in children, at times is also viewed as a result of OCD, injurious nail-biting often accompanies lack of sleep and depression. Parents are advised to look for these symptoms as studies have shown that about ninety percent of the children that have been found nail biting are often diagnosed with one or two mental diseases. A similar study was conducted among adults but the results weren’t as prominent as in children.
It has been clearly noted that most of the children that end up nail-biting have one or both parents that were nail-biters in the past as well. A study showed that despite severing off nail-biting before the child was born, parents still had children that were nail-biters. It is not uncommon for characteristics and behavioral patterns to be passed down through generations. A theory also states that a disorder may be passed to the child that may lead to the child developing a nail-biting habit, an example may be OCD.
2. A CONTINUATION OF THUMB-SUCKING FROM CHILDHOOD:
Nail-biting is a habit that children can take into their adulthood and is overall acceptable, thumb-sucking, on the other hand, is not. It is theorized that children move into nail-biting as a way to replace their thumb-sucking habits. Habits such as these are often referred as BFRB (A body-focused repetitive behavior) usually taken up for no logical reason and continued as a form of pleasure or something to do with boredom. These habits usually have the individual unconsciously harm themselves or their body appearance. These are difficult to let go and studies show often replace one after the other.
1. A FORM OF INWARD HOSTILITY:
People often end up blaming themselves for their surroundings and the events that surround them, at times unfairly and at times correctly. This often leads to a self-loathing behavior, in which the individual ends up hating themselves for a period of time. It is often thought that nail-biters experiencing this kind of an internal situation, take up nail-biting to inflict punishments on themselves, by biting off nails and at times leaving their hands bloody. Such a person should seek help and guidance as nail biting is not just injurious to health, it is injurious to mental health as well.