While many people out there are still hooked on the habit of nail biting (yeah, old habits die hard!), it is a dangerous time to keep this habit. Because of ease with which the Covid-19 virus is transmitted so easily from one infected person to another, public health officials keep encouraging preventive measures like frequent hand washing, social distancing, and keeping our hands from touching our face, eyes, and mouth.

For some nail biters, this is a difficult task.

The risk of infection is much greater for nail biters, now that the coronavirus is rampant all over the world. Aside from the major threat, the nails and cuticles could be damaged and become unsightly from this prolonged bad habit.

But what is the real reason why people bite their nails?

Nail biting could stem from anxiety, hidden emotions or mental stress showing up in people who display traits of nervousness, insecurity or even boredom. It is an act done without thinking.

Even so, “A nail biting habit can be time-consuming to break, but it is not difficult to do,” says assistant professor of Dermatology at NYU who is board-certified in psychiatry and dermatology, Evan Rieder, MD. “It just requires that people are motivated, consistent, and willing to deal with inevitable setbacks.”

A few tips to make quitting nail-biting easier.

First, is motivation. How motivated someone is, determines the likelihood of quitting. If you don’t feel like quitting, chances are you won’t. One must develop a genuine desire to stop, in order to break free from the habit.

Bitter nail polish, manicures, or chewing gum are temporary measures to get you off the habit. However, these measures do not lead to a permanent solution.

The key here is awareness as people tend to bite their fingernails without realizing it. Being more aware of when you’re about to bite makes it easier to prevent yourself from going through the act.

We tend to zone out whenever we watch TV, scroll through social media, or even when we feel anxious. That is why it is recommended to record down where and when you begin biting, the time of day it happens, and what’s going through your head when you do so, according to Dr. Rieder. You can even make quick notes on your phone.

Noting down helps you understand which patterns initiate the act of nail-biting, by keeping track of the situations, feelings, places, and even people who may trigger this habit.

According to Dr. Rieder, the combination of a sincere desire to quit, awareness that you do bite your nails, and keeping track of patterns is a proven approach on the road to quitting the habit.

Another method you could try is using a substitute behavior, like clenching your fist when you feel the urge to bite your nails. In the long run, it is less damaging and may totally replace the nail-biting habit.

Decoupling is the next method. In this method, you move your hand intentionally to another location the moment you feel your hand reaching your mouth; perhaps move your hand to the ears or drop your hand to your lap. However, Dr. Rieder feels this approach is less reliable than habit reversal therapy.

Setbacks

Setbacks however, are inevitable, especially when you’ve had the nail-biting habit, or any habit for that matter, longer than months or for most of your life. Reversing the habit overnight is impossible so patience is a virtue here.

Constantly motivate yourself every day and remind yourself of the dire situation the world is in right now. The last way you want to contract Covid-19 is through biting your nails. If all else fails and you feel you are unable to stop your nail-biting habit, do seek guidance from a behavioral health specialist.

By Aaron
18th May 15:07

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