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Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Nail-Biting
Nail-biting (onychophagia) is a common stress-relieving habit. You may bite your nails in times of stress or excitement, or in times of boredom or inactivity. It can also be a learned behavior from family members. Nail-biting is the most common of the typical "nervous habits," which include thumb-sucking, nose-picking, hair-twisting or -pulling, tooth-grinding, and picking at skin.
You may bite your nails without realizing you are doing it. You might be involved in another activity, such as reading, watching television, or talking on the phone, and bite your nails without thinking about it.
Nail-biting includes biting the cuticle and soft tissue surrounding the nail as well as biting the nail itself.
People of all ages bite their nails.
Nail-biting may occur with other body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRB) such as hair-pulling or skin-picking.
Several treatment measures may help you stop biting your nails. Some focus on behavior changes and some focus on physical barriers to nail-biting.
Children may bite their nails more often when they are having problems at school or with friends. Talk with your child or his or her teacher about any new stress at school. Children are more likely to stop biting their nails when they understand what may trigger it. It is also important for your child to help choose a treatment method so he or she can use the treatment successfully.
Nail-biting can cause your fingertips to be red and sore and your cuticles to bleed. Nail-biting also increases your risk for infections around your nail beds and in your mouth.
Long-term nail-biting can also interfere with normal nail growth and cause deformed nails.
In rare cases, nail-biting may be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD symptoms are usually treated with medicines.
Current as ofApril 1, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Current as of:
April 1, 2019
Medical Review:William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
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