If you can't quit biting your nails, the reason behind the habit might have more to do with your personality than just anxiety.
According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry by researchers at the Université de Montréal, nail biters are more likely to be perfectionists.
"We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviours may be perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform tasks at a normal pace," Dr. Kieron O’Connor, author of the study, said, via Wimp.com. "They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals.” And it's this that can lead to nail biting.
According to a study from the University of Calgary, up to 50 per cent of us will chronically chew on our nails at some point in our life.
The researchers studied 48 participants (admittedly, a small group of people), half of whom were chronic nail biters, and had them fill out surveys that tested their organizational behaviour and emotional regulation. They were also exposed to situations that provoked feelings such as stress and boredom, reports Woman's Day.
The results showed that nail-biters had perfectionist traits, as they were more likely to feel restless when they didn't have anything to do. They were also more likely to make detailed plans and be workaholics — nail-biting helped release their pent-up energy.
"These findings suggest that individuals suffering from body-focused repetitive behaviours could benefit from treatments designed to reduce frustration and boredom and to modify perfectionist beliefs," said Sarah Roberts, who also helped author the study.
Getting regular manicures can help prevent nail-biting.
If that seems easier said than done, then consider this: experts warn that nail biting can have serious health consequences such as bacterial infections, hangnails, colds, toxic poisoning, fungal growths and ingrown nails.
And it's not just your nails that can be harmed. According to WebMD, biting your nails can also harm your teeth, leading to poorly aligned, weakened teeth.
WebMD also offers more practical tips on how to curb your nail biting habit, including keeping your nails trimmed short, getting regular manicures, managing your stress levels with yoga and meditation and putting a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it if you get the urge to bite your nails.