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How to quit chewing?
November 16, 2004 7:22 AM   Subscribe

I bite my fingernails and gnaw at the ends of pens, all the more so if under stress, or after drinking more coffee than usual. Let's say I don't want to give up caffeine, and occasional stress is unavoidable: given this, how can I cut it out? Are there any former digit-nibblers here who have cured themselves of this unpleasant habit, & if so, how?
posted by misteraitch to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
 
When I was trying to quit chewing my nails, I chewed gum all the time instead. Worked like a charm - my mouth was busy, my breath was fresh, and my nails were so nice! Of course, you have to remember to chew gum - for me, chewing my nails is so automatic that I don't even realize I've done it until hours later. I made a ritual out of it; go to next class (I was in high school), sit down, take out books / paper, have a piece of gum. It was the only way I could remember. Good luck!
posted by some chick at 7:32 AM on November 16, 2004


Well, I'm still a gnawer, but I don't bite my fingernails anymore, exactly. Instead, I focus on keeping them as neat as possible. I think that biting them was like a weird obsession with keeping them "in order," so refocusing that nervous energy into actually keeping them looking good helps.

You have to keep them short, too - just to be on the safe side.

I also still sometimes bite that little area of skin around the nail. Helps keep me in check without looking too nasty. Really, though, the best way to quit is just to knock it off, I promise. Just tell yourself to refocus that nervous energy, and, pretty soon, the idea of your nails being little chewed-down nubs will feel as revolting as it sounds.
posted by ruddhist at 7:34 AM on November 16, 2004


There's a foul tasting stuff you can paint on your nails every morning. I believe it's also marketed to help kids stop sucking their thumbs. Odorless, invisible, but a real deterrent. Sorry, no more details. Good luck!
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:36 AM on November 16, 2004


I did the old rubber band trick. I put a rubber band on my wrist and every time I caught myself biting my nails, I'd snap it. I think it took only three times before I just stopped biting them completly.

Also, my wife pointing out the "dirt" on my car floor was actually old fingernails probably helped me quit.
posted by bondcliff at 7:58 AM on November 16, 2004


Weirdly? Wellbutrin or Effexor, low dosage.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:00 AM on November 16, 2004


You can also transfer the gnawing bug to a bag of snacks at your desk, but that has the unpleasant side effect of gradually fattening you up.

(I read that as "gnaw at the ends of penis." Waaauuugh.)
posted by brownpau at 8:02 AM on November 16, 2004


Get a manicure. If your nails aren't long enough, every time you go to bite them think about the manicure. Then once you do have it done, you won't want to chew on them because of the clear nail polish.

As a side effect your signifigant other will think you are taking better care of yourself and if you are single, then its something women will notice right away.
posted by thebwit at 8:08 AM on November 16, 2004


I stopped biting my nails by keeping them really short, clipping them every night so there's no place to even start biting. After a couple of years of that I completely go out of the biting habit, can let them grow longer now.

I do chew lots of gum.
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 8:19 AM on November 16, 2004


Learn guitar. You'll keep your left-hand nails trimmed to finger with and leave your right-hand nails alone to pick with, leaving you with no nails to chew. (unless you can chew your toenails. Or start chewing someone else's nails).
posted by TimeFactor at 8:48 AM on November 16, 2004


I used to bite my nails, but then one day when I was eleven I decided to stop, and that was that. It's odd but I've never been able to do that with anything else. Possibly it was because the jagged edges were interfering with nosepicking.
posted by biffa at 9:23 AM on November 16, 2004


Two things put an end to my lifetime habit of nail-nibbling:

(a) the realization that there's a plague's worth of bacteria and other nasty shit under the nail;

(b) keeping them trimmed so short there's nothing to nibble.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:48 AM on November 16, 2004


I bit my nails for the longest time, and nothing worked to stop it, including that poison stuff. I didn't taste my nails when I bit them so it did nothing at all.

I finally stopped by using baby steps, since I could not stop cold turkey. First, the middle three fingers were out of bounds, but thumbs and pinkies were fair game. Then I stopped biting the pinkies. Then a couple years later, stopped doing the thumbs. (And then let my nails grow obscenely long since I'd never had to take care of them before.)

The really hard part is that it's very easy to turn what was just a normal habbit into a nervous habit. So 90% of the time, you won't bite them, but when you get stressed, you ravage them and destroy all the effort.
posted by smackfu at 9:52 AM on November 16, 2004


(a) the realization that there's a plague's worth of bacteria and other nasty shit under the nail

I attribute my good health to the immunity built up by chewing on my nails...
posted by esch at 9:52 AM on November 16, 2004


1) Trim them when they need to be trimmed. 2) Trim them when you notice yourself gnawing on them. 3) When you notice yourself gnawing on them tell yourself to stop. Worked for me.

pwb.
posted by pwb503 at 11:11 AM on November 16, 2004


Keep them short. Do the rubber-band trick. Use crappy-tasting soap and moisturizer.

Or you could do what I did--start smoking. I started smoking, which made me lose interest in biting my nails. Then I quit smoking, and miraculously didn't start biting my nails again!
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:03 PM on November 16, 2004


I began taking Paxil 2+ years ago for mild anxiety disorder/panic attack stuff. Surprisingly, I quit chewing my nails -- cold turkey -- within about 8 weeks of beginning the Paxil. And I was a lifelong chewer - chronic - bleeding - yuck. Now my nails look great, and I enjoy tapping them and "grooming" them.

YMMV.
posted by davidmsc at 7:14 PM on November 16, 2004


I have to concur on the Wellbutrin. After I started on Wellbutrin two years ago, I finally was able to stop biting my nails (after at least twenty years of the habit.) It was an unexpected benefit.
posted by acridrabbit at 8:54 PM on November 16, 2004


I guess I'll just buy lots of gum (although I don't enjoy chewing gum all that much) & maybe invest in a rubber band.

I bite my nails even when they're really quite short, so I'm not sure that trimming would have much of a benefit: at the moment, for example, there's almost nothing trimmable there.

I never had much interest in learning to play guitar, alas.

Now I think abut it, I reckon that smoking cigarettes may have helped me ease up on the nail-biting, but I've been 'clean' on that front for some years now, so won't be going there again.

It's interesting to hear about the effects of Paxil, Wellbutrin, etc in this regard, but it seems a little excessive to mess with my brain chemistry for cosmetic reasons.

My thanks for all your responses!
posted by misteraitch at 1:06 AM on November 17, 2004


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