How can I stop biting my nails?
December 10, 2005 9:05 AM   Subscribe

How can someone who's been biting their nails for 20 years stop?
posted by Ekim Neems to Society & Culture (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Some suggestions in this recent thread.
posted by Gator at 9:12 AM on December 10, 2005

I stopped by, well, step by step, so to speak. I kept biting just two fingers (both index fingers) and when the other eight fingernails had comfortably grown back I quit biting my right index fingernail, and in the end I had nine perfectly good fingers and a sad-looking, lame-o one.

I stopped, and that was it. perfect 10.
posted by matteo at 9:37 AM on December 10, 2005

sheer will power will help the most. every time you catch yourself doing it, just stop. it's really that simple. i re-train myself to do things differently all the time, i kind of enjoy the challenge.
posted by lohmannn at 9:44 AM on December 10, 2005

If you find you can't stop with all the great tips in that other thread, maybe talk to your doctor about low-dose Effexor, which is sometimes used to treat OCD-related behaviors. A loss of interest in nail-biting can be a by-product for some.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:00 AM on December 10, 2005

The same technique used by parents to stop thumb sucking: A bitter substance under your fingernails. There's even a specific product on the market OTC.
posted by IronLizard at 10:18 AM on December 10, 2005

Also, this thread from February.
posted by waldo at 10:32 AM on December 10, 2005

I'm a lifetime nail-biter and I've been trying the rubber band technique written about in the other thread and here for about a week and a half now. My experience has matched the blogger's pretty much exactly, and my nails are the longest they've ever been.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 10:39 AM on December 10, 2005

I get a weekly manicure. I was a lifelong nail (and cuticle - ugh) biter until I started doing this. Now my nails are purdy, and I never bite them.
posted by discokitty at 11:36 AM on December 10, 2005

Hi, I'm Dave, and I bit my nails for nearly 30 years.
(Hi, Dave!)
And when I say that I bit my nails, brother, did I ever...every nail, every day, and sometimes there was blood.

But within two months after beginning to take Paxil (for related anxiety issues, etc), I just quit cold-turkey. It is the most outwardly-visible sign of my "return" to normalcy. Granted, I doubt that you should take Paxil JUST to quit biting your nails, but if there are any underlying issues that may contribute to your chewing habit, they may - MAY - be made better via meds.

And no, I am not a doctor.
posted by davidmsc at 11:43 AM on December 10, 2005

Response by poster: Sorry I missed the other thread. Great suggestions! I think I'm going to start by using hand moisturizer. Maybe if my cuticles aren't dry and also taste really bad, I won't need to bite anymore. Good luck to everyone else still trying to quit.
posted by Ekim Neems at 1:03 PM on December 10, 2005

My boyfriend told me he found it unattractive, so I just stopped after doing it for as long as I can remember.
posted by matkline at 1:12 PM on December 10, 2005

Moisturizing is a great start for getting rid of hangnails which can, as noted, really help with stopping nailbiting. Not just once or twice a day, but after every hand wash or other experience that dries out the skin (a few minutes of outdoor exposure in winter weather, if you went out without gloves for some reason, for example). At first it felt weird to apply moisturizer so many times during the day (I don't have to as much these days), but I could really see the difference in terms of no more little pieces of dry skin hanging off my fingers. Having little tubes and bottles of lotion (I just got whatever was cheapest at the drugstore) stashed in my different bags, in my locker, in the car's glove compartment, at my desk, etc. helped too.
posted by PY at 1:38 PM on December 10, 2005

I second the manicure thing. Man-icure, for your sake Ekim. For men, they aren't that expensive, and after going to a salon a few times you should be able to learn how to maintain it yourself. Anyway, when your nails look nice, you are less likely to mess them up. If your cuticles are nice and short and your nails are even and not jagged or long, there won't be much to chew off. Moisturizing helps this because it prevents your cuticles from drying out and cracking.

I don't recommend the bitter stuff. Most serious biters eat right through that stuff.

Besides, as a woman, I can tell you men with ragged, sharp, icky nails is a major turn-off. (Except when my husband's been working on his motorcycle and gets grease all under his fingernails. For some reason I find that extremely sexy...)
posted by Brittanie at 3:28 PM on December 10, 2005

I was a life time biter. Unexpectedly, one day this past summer, I realized that all ten finger nails and cuticles were in good shape at the same time. I made a commitment to keep them unbitted and to stop picking at them. It has been difficult. Every time I realized that I was putting my fingers to my mouth or started doing the physically rough poking and prodding thing, I sought out something to distract myself such as fingering my zipper pull or a button; purposefully putting both hands on the steering wheel (if driving); fondling the hem of my shirt.

Persistence was (and actually continues to be) the key. The most important realization is that preemptive measures help. Keeping my nails filed and short reducing the urge to pick.
posted by chase at 4:07 PM on December 10, 2005

I just gave up. Used a few of the nasty tasting nail treatments to remind me I was biting, but I really just stopped.

I started to see how other people must see my nails, especially in business situations when shaking hands etc.

Rich (30+ years biting nails)
posted by hardcode at 5:14 PM on December 10, 2005

I found I was only able to stop biting my nails when, as a teenager, I got braces on my teeth. I couldn't bite them for two years and never started again. Unfortunately I began smoking which took another 18 years to quit. *4 1/2 weeks gert-free! YAY!
posted by HyperBlue at 5:47 PM on December 10, 2005

I get manicures monthly. In my town, it's considered wierd for a man to get a manicure, but there are lots of nail places. I also use Nail Defense, which is available in most groceries. Once there are no ragged edges to chew, it's easy to stop.
posted by faceonmars at 12:51 AM on December 11, 2005

A girl I liked noticed how far down I had bitten my nails - this was great incentive to stop. Every time I thought about biting I thought about how much I wanted to impress her.

I also found that chewing gum helped.

It didn't solve the problem completly - I still bite, but no where near as much as I used to. Generally only when I'm nervous or thinking.
posted by cornflake at 1:56 AM on December 11, 2005

I started carrying around nail clippers and using them whenever I had the urge to bite 'em. Not only do you come to realize that there's not much there to trim (or bite), but when the nail starts to grow out, you clip, and get progressively larger sections of straight nails which are far less tempting to bite.
posted by masymas at 3:19 AM on December 11, 2005

This may be a silly question, but how can you get a manicure when there's essentially no nail beyond the finger, no white edges, etc. In other words, what are they manicuring on nail biters?
posted by artifarce at 7:35 AM on December 11, 2005

Use the rubberband trick (it's the first link from Espy Gillespie). Worked wonders for me after 20-something years of nailbiting.
posted by kuperman at 10:28 AM on December 11, 2005

I have noticed that I bite my nails less when I don't overdo the caffeine.
posted by vronsky at 1:17 PM on December 11, 2005

Another proponent of better living through chemistry. I quit biting my nails after going on the prozac years ago.
posted by dipolemoment at 8:24 PM on December 11, 2005

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