ZocdocAnswersHow do I stop biting my nails?

Question

How do I stop biting my nails?

I'm a 20 year old girl and I cannot stop biting my nails. It's like I'm addicted to it. The nails on most of my fingers have become really ragged and sometimes bleed. Is this a normal problem that other people sometimes have. How do they get over it.

Answer

Biting nails, or onychophagia, is a common condition. I would encourage you to discuss this with your primary care physician. If appropriate, he or she may refer your to a psychiatrist to help with this condition. While common, onychophagia is considered a disorder. That is, it is not normal. More specifically, onychophagia is classified as an impulse control disorder. This is in the same category as obsessive - compulsive disorder ( being "OCD"). We worry about people with nail biting for two main reasons: (1) We worry about nail problems -- infections, permanent finger and nail damage, teeth and or mouth problems are some of the problems that can occur. (2) This disorder can be a sign of another psychiatric disorder (such as OCD mentioned above) that could require treatment. There are treatment options. The most common therapy is behavioral therapy. This works to change the body's dependence on the behavior. For example, there are special nail polishes available that have a bitter flavor (but safe to consume). This causes the brain to associated a negative stimulus with the finger biting activity and hopefully extinguishes that activity over time. Also note, that many people can simply outgrow this phase. I would strongly encourage you to see your primary care physician. Good luck!

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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