I was about 7 years old when I got my first nail polish. Instead of the typical bright, sparkly varnish à la Claire’s that most kids sported, I picked mine up from the pharmacy after a doctor’s visit – a medicinal brown glass bottle of prescription polish deliberately composed of foul-tasting chemicals meant to deter nail biting. It was bitter enough to make me crinkle my nose, but not so much so that I wouldn’t continue to chew my nails to the quick. Even my doctor couldn’t get me to stop.
I didn’t understand just how much importance I now place on having good nails, and the impact it has on my self-esteem and mental health until I caught myself scheduling interpersonal obligations and budgeting for the month around my manicures. If my nails are not done – and sometimes even when they are – I will bite, pick, file, and pull at them until my fingers are raw and bleeding.
My boyfriend recognizes this habit before We’re physically alert to it myself sometimes, grabbing my hands to calm me straight down and keep me personally from picking. The nagging problem is, if I’m not really in an especially stressful situation even, I could bite without recognizing it – as soon as I begin, I can’t end until they’re yet length, smooth and round without jagged edges. When I color my nails today, determined by the growing season, I favor a common dark or nude gray polish to the pungent among my childhood.
Still, recently, I was at a business event for function filled up with powerful, glamorous females. During a polite small chat over beverages, I complimented a colleague’s nail color – a good pastel for springtime. This tripped a chain result of females splaying their fingertips against all of those another group as most of us examined each other’s manicure options. Embarrassed, I clutched my wines with both tactile hands, hiding the data of my demanding workday on my fingernails (or lack thereof).
So why would it be so hard to avoid biting your nails? Experts insist that onychophagia, the medical name for nail-biting, is an extremely prevalent issue camouflaged as a bad habit wrongfully.
Dr. Kieron O’Connor, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal, explained that onychophagia isn’t a panic. Instead, it’s among the many bodies- concentrated repetitive behaviors (BFRB) that include nail biting, locks pulling, and skin choosing. O’Connor also explained that while nail biting is certainly more prevalent in stressful circumstances, there’s very little evidence that individuals who perform it are even more neurotic in general.
They do, however, possess traits in keeping often.
“Ironically, nail-biters could be more perfectionist and more prone to be dissatisfied with themselves and their performance, ” O’Connor said. “ This might trigger biting. ”
Regarding a paper O’Connor wrote, published in the Journal of Scientific Psychology in 2015, certain circumstances at high risk of onset of BRFBs involve contexts and activities in which the person feels judged, constrained, frustrated, or dissatisfied. I could catch myself picking within my fingernails while deep in an idea, sitting at work idly, or waiting 20 mins for the F teach – a lot more than not often, it’s all three situations in the same time. BBC provides a psychological regulation to release stress, assisting a person cope with challenging emotions. Some of O’Connor’s research shows that individuals with habit disorders might have problems regulating emotions. At least of these quieter occasions, I don’t disagree.
Thinking back, I’ve been a nail biter – before that always, I sucked my thumb into early elementary school, later than most children probably. O’Connor stated thumbnail and sucking biting can both “reduce stress and increase emotions of comfort, ” but as of this moment, there is absolutely no direct link between thumb sucking in nail and babies biting afterward in life. That said, nail biting is associated with grooming behavior, ” which the majority of us grab when we’re youthful, during early childhood.
If grooming behavior is learned, that’s not saying that everyone’s personal beauty standards are shared. My mom is somebody who, at 64, wears minimal make-up and hasn’t gotten her hair shaded or her fingernails done – I’ve hardly ever seen her use nail polish. I have trained a manicure was an extravagance we couldn’t afford. But although I didn’t always develop up influenced by somebody who subscribed to materialistic beauty criteria, the need for clean, healthy hair, epidermis, and nails was hardly ever lost on me.
I wanted to learn if there is a genetic aspect at play, making wonderful, unbitten nails to achieve for anxiety-ridden most people like myself harder. Regarding O’Connor, there doesn’t seem to be a particular gene for nail-biting or locks pulling, known as trichotillomania otherwise. It’s tough to trace a particular behavior like nail biting to 1 gene, rather than searching for the genetic factors behind a far more general tendency, like nervousness. The closest matter there is normally to a nail-biting gene, he said, is normally an “ applicant gene” doctors believe may code for Tourette syndrome and various other impulse disorders.
There comes a period generally in most people’s lives whenever a distinction needs to be made between a benign habit and a self-destructive behavior. For a few, this may include excess alcohol, smoking, or sex – for me personally, it’s a lot more PG. Anyone who bites their fingernails compulsively can let you know (myself included) that there may be real harm to the cuticles and the fingernails and epidermis from biting. Dr. O’Connor stated the same will additionally apply to all habit locks pulling, disorders and including nail-biting.
O’Connor also told me that since BFRBs are similar to tics and develop along the same age trajectory, individuals who will develop onychophagia as adults typically start showing signs in adolescence. He said it’s rare that it would develop later in life, but that it could get worse depending on life events and trauma. In my case, it’s always been there, but only recently have I consciously noticed it again, willing myself to stop. My fingers and my wallet have had enough.
When it comes to quitting, it’s not as easy as slapping on a patch — onychophagia isn’t a conscious decision. In my currently stressed-out state, the prescription polish wouldn’t be enough to quell the urge to pick. In fact, I’m not sure anything short of year-round gloves would really help me fully quit.
From what O’Connor explained, today’s most reliable treatments are behavioral. One method, called habit reversal, consists of practicing an action or motion antagonist to the action of biting (i. e., keeping the hands usually occupied). From on now, I’ll make an effort to rewire my human brain and tell my hands to accomplish something constructive during unsatisfying or stressful moments. Maybe I’ll grab a pen and pull my notion of perfect fresh manicure, all, and s all, s, the fresh manicure and all.