4 Ways to Kick the Nail Biting Habit

Do you bite your nails? I sure do. I even remember the day it first started. I had always been a bit of an OCD-child. How OCD? I once burned a hole in the bed linen with a clothing iron in kindergarten. Why? I couldn’t get the creases out of the sheet. 🤦‍♀️

Well, one day, I asked Mom to clip my nails, but we were in such a hurry that she said she would do it when we returned home. We had a long drive and I remember sitting in the car, running my teeth over the hitch in the nail, trying to even it out.

Eventually, I chewed it off and moved on to the rest. That started a terrible habit that would follow me into adulthood. I no longer use clothing irons to get the creases out of my sheets, but at almost 30 years old, I have an impossibly long-lasting love affair with biting my nails.

Ever since my teen years, I’ve experimented with a million different ways to kick the habit. I am now having another successful go at this for the umpteenth time. So, if you also need some ideas, here are a few you can try to help you stop biting your nails.

1. Chew Something Else

According to Sigmund Freud, nail-biting is a form of oral fixation that often results from being weaned too early. However, this is only half true for me. As my mother will promptly tell you, one morning I woke up, spat out the breast and said in newborn lingo, “No more of this woman! No more!” Thus, I am one of those babies who weaned themselves.

I do think people can become orally fixated anyway. So, my first way of tackling nail-biting as a teen was just to chew on something else. I sometimes chewed on pen tops, pencils and straws, but soon learned that all of these were unhealthy. I also tried gum, but I’m not big on gum. Either way, chewing on something else was highly effective.

2. Paint Your Nails

Inevitably, that day came when I realised I couldn’t find a healthy something else to chew on. And so, back to the fingers I returned. At this point, I came up with a new plan. I would just paint my nails. I loved black fingernail polish. This was a hallmark of my teenage years and it never left me. In fact, my nails are painted black right now.

So, every summer I would spare myself from biting the hell out of my nails by painting them. When you paint your nails, especially with black polish, that deliciousness is ruined! You also get stuck with black flakes on your tongue and teeth that make the whole process a terrible experience. Talk about a worthwhile deterrent.

Alexis Chateau College.jpg
This is me back in 2010, while on summer vacation in Atlanta. Note the nails!

3. Use Band-aids

As brilliant as this idea was, there was one caveat. I attended Catholic school and one of the rules at my school was that we could not wear nail polish. I don’t remember if clear nail polish or nail hardeners were allowed, but there was no way in hell Sister Angela was going to let me waltz onto the Mount Alvernia campus with demon-coloured nails.

That created quite the predicament that was promptly solved with band-aids. Now, you might be thinking, how on Earth does one function with band-aids on all ten fingers? I didn’t put them on all ten. As a nail-biter, you always have one or two go-to nails that you later ditch for the others if they don’t have much to offer. Those were the two with band-aids. One bite into that and I would remember, “Hello there! You can’t bite your nails today!”

4. Put Money on the Line

The older I became, the less concerned I was with appearances and the more focused I was on my health. I paid closer attention to eating healthy and getting enough steps in as opposed to whether or not my nails looked fabulous. Well, naturally, the end result of that is that I started biting my nails again in between vegetarian tacos and freshly squeezed juices.

When I started working, I came across two other women who struggled with the same problem, so we made a deal. I was the banker who kept the gold pot. Every morning, when we came to work, we had to report on whether or not we had bitten our nails. Anyone who did would pay a small fine. The last person remaining, who had not yet reported biting their nails, got to take the money home and we would start again.

Over the years, there have been times when I stopped biting my nails without even noticing. I don’t really understand what changes in my life at these points, but the last time this happened was in late 2017 and very early 2018. However, for the most part, biting my nails is an uphill battle with a sickening addiction.

If you are also battling with the urge to chew your nail down to the flesh, I hope this helps. This time around, it is the black nail polish that is proving effective for me, but if all else fails, I have another three methods to try.

Do you have stories about nail-biting? What about tips to help people to stop? Drop them all in the comments below. I’ll be waiting!

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12 thoughts on “4 Ways to Kick the Nail Biting Habit

  1. First off, my daughter weaned herself too. One morning at 9 months she sat up, looked around and never nursed again. As for nail biting I have done it since I was 2. My dad did it too. Maybe it’s genetic. Ha. Anyway my granddaughter actually got me to stop biting my last two nails. I had weaned myself off the first 8 but needed the 2. She basically got on my case about the germs and the unsightly appearance. It worked when nothing else ever had, including that paint on pepper flavored stuff.

    1. Hahaha! So wait! Do you only bite 8 and then leave the other 2?? 😂😂

      I bite every last one of mine. I really hope this will be a long-term stop for me. We really need to kick this habit.

      People think it’s a sign of anxiety, but I’ll be perfectly calm and still chew them all off.

  2. I have this same bad habit and like you, I’ve stopped here and there but the habit tends to return. I haven’t bitten my nails in at least a month though because I’ve been painting them with either clear or light pink nail polish. With my nails looking pretty, it’s a lot harder to chew them but I fear the habit may return soon since I won’t have the energy to keep that up. People mistake it as a nervous habit so it’s something I should really try to curb, but I just find myself subconsciously doing it for comfort or while thinking/concentrating.

    1. A lot of people do assume it’s a nervous habit. That has nothing to do with it. I just like to do it. 😂 I’m more likely to chew them off when I’m sitting there quite content than when I have a lot on my mind. I pace when I have a lot on my mind.

      Maybe being a doctor will cure you though. Hard to chew through latex and then you have sick patients to handle. Can’t be putting your hands in your mouth.

      1. So far so good for me. I hope you’re still hanging in there.

  3. Ha! I’m totally a nail biter. Like you, can remember only two instances, one summer in my teens and one in adulthood when I was successful in not biting and instead grew them. The high school bout was from sheer willpower as even when I wore nail polish, I found myself all too happy to grate away at the polish with my teeth for the prize.. Then I started wearing acrylic which helped for years and I would put the finger in, feel my nice long nails and take it back out even when there was no acrylic. But then, I had my daughter, cut my nails for fear of scratching her and sunk right back into the vicious habit. I hope I can stop again cz boooy! Please pray for me as I continue to pray for myself 😂😩

    P. S. I moved blogs over to http://www.shandeanreid.com. You can follow back there!

    1. My Mom said acrylic nails is how she got herself to stop too. I have never seen her bite her nails, but I have also never seen her without acrylic. I tried it twice and hated it. I don’t like feeling that extra stuff on my nails lol.

      Good luck to us both! I followed your new website.

  4. Luckily, I’ve never suffered from that habit, but something that tends to work to calm young children in school is giving them a small soft ball to squeeze or some play dough. Keeping them busy with fine motor skills works too, from model building to drawing. I am sure this would work for adults too.

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