How many times did you hear it from parents and grandparents? “Stop biting your nails!” While most kids don’t realize what they are doing, adults know just how many germs get on your hands and fingers as we go through the day.
When people keep biting their nails into adulthood we often assume it’s because they suffer from anxiety or nervousness. But on findings that will definitely suprise many, scientist have shown that this bad habit has alot more to do with avery different personality trait.
First of all, psychologist and scientist have a very fancy term for the phenomenon, which they call ‘onycophagia’, and classify it along with ‘body-focused repetitive behaviours’ per Psychology Today. Other activities in this group include pulling or twirling ones own hair, chewing on a pen, and pickingvat skin or scabs.
Its often been taught all these behaviours have to do with nerves. As Psychology Today explains, “Nail biting is associated with anxiety, because the act of chewing on nails reportedly relieves stress, tension or boredom”. But this might be one case where common wisdom doesn’t have it right.
A major study from the University of Montreal showed that the root cause of the behaviour isn’t just being generally “Nervous” it has more to do with personality.
As lead researcher Dr. Kieron Connor explained in a press release, per the Huffington Post “We believe that repetitive behaviours may be perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perfirm task at a “normal plsce”.
What makes these people go for their nais is a difficulty coping with boredom that often results from not being fully engaged by their environment. While they may be perfectly happy while doing their job, the moment that there’s downtime, their excessive focus and energy can become overwhelming. According to the study, perfectionists “experience greater levels of boredom.”
Perfections also have trouble dealinf with the feelings that results from a job that they rightly or wrongly, perceive not to be well done. As Dr.O’connor wrote, “they are therefore prone to frustrations, impatience and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals.”
The study didn’t focus on the negative effects of Nail biting but rather tried to understand why people engage in it. “What triggers the habit is largely frustrstions and impatience so the actions substitutes from more constructive action,” Dr.O’connor explained to the Huff Post.
But what can people who bite their nails do to kerp this tendency in check? There are all kinds of classic remedies for biting nails. These can include putting bitter substances on nails, such as neem oil, which will make a negative connection that will encourage the person to stop.
Chewing sugar-free gum can also help give the person an outlet for their frustration. Teas that have naturally calming effect like Chamomile and Mint can work well for some people.
Even better are practices but addresses the root cause of perfectionists frustration such as yoga and meditation, which can calm the mind and help them get a handle on compulsive thoughts.
As Dr.O’connor notes, changing the way perfectionist think is the ultimate cure. If psychologist can get perfections to lower the stakes, not investing so much in the kutcome of everything they do, then “the person does not need to learn a competing responce to replace the habit.”
Regardless of how you approach it, study shows that Nail Biting is a lot more complex than it may appear at first.