Nail biting: why we do it according to psychology

    Nail biting: why we do it according to psychology

    Psychology of Nail Biting: This behavior speaks of stress and emotional distress. To change, you need a holistic approach.

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    Nail biting: children and adolescents do it above all (according to some research, this is a habit shared by 20-30% of children who go to school and 45% of teenagers); from the age of 18, this behavior decreases although it can persist into adulthood (or begin).

    Specifically, nail biting develops into four stages: in prima, the eye somehow falls on the finger or, that finger and the nail are "perceived" (for example thanks to the rubbing of the fingers between them, or the passage of the fingertips). In practice: attention is called in a non-predetermined, unscheduled way.

    In second stage, that finger is placed near the mouth, in contact with the lips. A gesture that is a little comforting and a little reassuring. At that point - and the third step - the position of the jaw is changed and the nail is tapped rapidly against the front teeth with small biting actions, mostly rapid and spasmodic. In the end, last stage: fingers are removed from the mouth.

    The consequences ofonychophagy, as science defines "nail biting", does not only concern the aesthetic aspect of the finger and nail, including the cuticles, but also the health and well-being of the mouth: based on the intensity and frequency of the behavior in fact, chewing problems can be created, consequent to the modification of the teeth and jaw structure. Small imperceptible variations which, however, then make the difference.

    From research in psychology and from observations, particularly in psychosomatics, it clearly emerges that teasing, biting, biting one's nails is, for many, a sort of Anti-tension "strategy". Children do this in times of distress, when they don't know a lesson at school or while reading sad stories, listening to horror stories, watching television or talking on the phone. It can also be a learned behavior from family members or, even, the consequence of a bad relationship with a mother in an unwelcoming or aggressive way.

    The reasons of adults are not very different: it becomes an automatic way to download emotional discomfort and stress of various kinds and intensities. For example, among the most avid "nail eaters" we find the "perfectionists ": For them, impatient, goal-driven and with a high level of expectation, it becomes a way to ease the inevitable frustrations and disappointments. Also feeling lonely, especially in the most sensitive people, it can induce this habit which on the one hand discharges the emotional discomfort and on the other is a act of self-aggression.

    According to more recent studies, it could be a inherited behavior: it is often a modality chosen by those who had at least one parent who was onychophagic for a certain period (even if he stopped before the birth of the child!).

    It is also important to know that, in some cases, the frequency and severity of the behavior make it one real nuisance: In DSM 5, onychophagy is part of the picture obsessive-compulsive; it is made up of unwanted, continuous thoughts and compulsions, ie behaviors carried out not by choice but by a very strong, “irresistible” impulse to carry them out.

    Read also:

    • Nail biting: 10 natural remedies to stop nail biting
    • Do you always bite your nails? Research reveals the because

    Whatever the age of the nail biting, there is no need for punishment to eliminate this behavior; attention to aesthetics can work (especially with adults) but alone it is almost never enough. Counterproductive are the "threats", playing with irony or derision.

    Even the various bitter glazes that are supposed to act as a disgusting deterrent as soon as you put your finger in your mouth can really help only those who are willing to change. The most correct approach is the holistic one: get to the cause, identify the reason why this sort of self-aggression is acting.

    By working on these aspects, taking care of them in a conscious and pro-active way, on the one hand it will be possible to reduce or eliminate the causes, on the other hand it will be possible to build an authentic motivation that will accompany, in an effective way, all the more technical interventions or strategies (such as bitter-tasting nail polish) that are useful or necessary.

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