Nail Biting - Causes and Prevention

by Angel

Nail biting is a common practice among children, teens, and some adults. We have all found our fingers in our mouth at one time or another. But do you compulsively bite?

Nail biting affects up to 60% of children and 45% of teenagers according to recent studies.  We have
all bitten our nails at one point or another in our life.  Most of us for only a few minutes while sitting in a boring class or during an anxious moment.  There are the others that continue to bite their nails to the point of being compulsive about it.  Their nails are bitten down to the quick with cracked and torn cuticles.  These nail biters could be considered as having an impulse control disorder. Either way, nail biting can cause infections and more commonly can cause embarrassment for the biter himself. 



Reasons to Stop Biting Your Nails

  • Having nails that are bitten down to the quick can cause a lot of embarrassment for the nail biter.   Hands are something that many people look at while you are in conversation.  Especially if you talk with your hands.  It can cause embarrassment to the point of creating additional anxiety and stress which makes you bite them even more. 
  • If you bite your nails, your fingers are sore.  Cuticles are torn and skin is irritated. 
  • Bacteria is passed from your hands to your mouth.  There are germs under the fingernail and when you are biting your nails you are putting those germs in your mouth.  It is shown that people that bite their nails have more common colds than those that don't.

Top Reasons People Bite Their Nails

  • Being in a stressful situation
  • Being bored

  • Having nails that are poorly
    manicured, ie.. hangnails.

  • Impulsive Control Disorder –
    compulsive habit regardless of situation

Some bite nails down in the quick to the point of being painful
Some bite nails down in the quick to ...



  • There are many different products available out there for nail biters.  Most are some sort of
    colorless, odorless, nail polish that is applied to the nail.  The  taste is so bitter that it helps keep you from biting your nails.

  • Keep nails neatly manicured with  no hang nails.

  • Some more serious nail biters may require behavioral therapy to quit biting their nails.  It depends on how compulsive they are and if any of the other options work.

  • In some cases, using artificial nails can help the growth of your natural nail just by covering your  nail and keeping you from biting it.   Be careful as some artificial nail glue and acrylics weaken the natural nail and will not do much good after the artificial nails are removed. My experience has been that simple glue on nails are better than getting acrylic  nails.  The glued on nails can be removed every 7-10 days to reveal new nail growth each time. 

  • Once your natural nails start to grow out, get a manicure.  To see your nails looking so good should inspire you to not bite them.

  • Find something else to do with your hands.  Examples could include crocheting, drawing, writing etc  Keep your hands busy and out of your mouth.


Updated: 12/19/2011, Angel
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Angel on 04/01/2012

Pinkchic18 - I just recently quite biting my nails and I am so glad I did. I can save so much money on getting them done at the salon to keep from biting them. I have started doing them at home and saves a lot of money. Looks so much better too. thanks for reading and commenting.

Pinkchic18 on 03/30/2012

My husband used to bite his nails all the time, just out of habit and/or being bored. I pointed it out to him every time he did it, and before we knew it he'd knocked the habit. Now he doesn't want anything to do with biting his nails!

Angel on 02/29/2012

Thanks for stopping in Katie. I have finally stopped biting my nails after many years. I have to keep them manicured to keep them out of my mouth or I start biting again. A nervous habit.

katiem2 on 02/27/2012

Very good tips on preventing nail biting. Oh the kids who do this and its so troublesome. Thanks for the tips to quit.

Angel on 02/03/2012

Hi Paul - I still do bite mine if I don't go and get them done at the nail salon. I have a lot of nervous energy! Yeah... fidgety is a good word. I decided to write this after sitting there with my fingers in my mouth one night trying to figure out what to write.LOL Thanks for reading and commenting.

PaulGoodman67 on 02/03/2012

An interesting and insightful read. I used to bite my nails when I was teenager. It was a reaction to stress and boredom, I guess, although I wouldn't say that for me it was compulsive. I don't do it anymore although I am still fidgety.

Angel on 01/09/2012

Thank you PartyAnimal - I have the bad habit of biting too. I am trying not to get the acrylic or gel nails because I have been having allergic reactions to both. So I have to keep mine painted too so I won't bite! or nibble... Thanks for reading and commenting.

ThePartyAnimal on 01/09/2012

Great article - I actually just stopped biting my nails for the first time in like forever. I have been doing the coolest nail art on my daughter's nail and got jealous - lol. So I stopped biting them so I can do it on mine too. It is a very hard habit to break, but I find having nail polish on really helps to deter me from biting them too.

Angel on 01/05/2012

Thank you bhthanks - I was sitting here one night trying to figure out what to write about and kept biting my nails. So I decided to write this article about it.. I have also heard of using the bitter nail polish for thumb sucking. I have tried the stuff and it is nasty! Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

bhthanks on 01/05/2012

These are wonderful tips for preventing and treating nail biting. Regarding the bitter nail polish that discourages nail biting, I think I have heard that the bitter nail polish also helps to discourage kids from sucking their thumbs.

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