My son is a nail biter. I have always believed it would be something he would eventually outgrow. Now there is new research which may change our perspective on nail biting from irritating habit to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). By next year, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) will officially classify nail biting, or pathological grooming, as a type of OCD.
Not only unhygienic
According to the Mayo Clinic, not only is nail biting unhygienic but it can also be hazardous to health. Severe nail biting can lead to infections, increase the risks of colds and spread germs among others.
But also an anxiety disorder
OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder. It manifests itself by trapping people in an endless cycle of repetitive behaviors as the sufferer tries to gain control of his or her environment. Outside anxieties drive the nail biter to chew the nails. And unlike more conventional OCD sufferers, many nail biters report a sense of reward after indulging in their compulsion.
Some tips to help you stop
If you are concerned about your nail biting habit, you can now talk to a health care provider or a psychologist about possible treatment as an anxiety disorder. There are things you can try on your own:
- Identify the triggers for nail biting and then avoid them by anticipating their occurrence
- Keeping a diary could help
- Find healthy ways of managing stress so that the temptation to bite can be averted
- Keeping nails trimmed and manicured also helps some people
- Keeping your hands and mouth busy could block the attempt to bite
Additionally, chewing gum, playing computer games or writing might make it more difficult to take out anxieties on your fingertips.