biting nail habit

i have been having the bad habit of biting nails since primary school and everytime i try to stop it, it just comes back again.

wonder if this is normal? is this my coping method or is it just a habit that has been with me for far too long?


Dear @peanutbutter, thanks for reaching out and sharing this concern with us. It sounds like you are struggling with a long-standing habit of nail-biting and are questioning whether it is a means of coping or simply a habit that is difficult to rid of.

Here are a couple of questions you may wish to ask yourself, that would help to shed some light on whether nail-biting is a habit or serves as a coping mechanism for you:

  1. Frequency and intensity – Do you bite your nails more frequently or intensely when you are stressed or anxious?
  2. Triggers – Do you find yourself biting your nails in response to specific triggers, e.g. social situations or school/work stress?
  3. Emotional connection – Does the act of biting your nails provide a sense of relief and/or comfort?

If your answer is yes to these questions, then this may suggest that biting your nails is indeed a coping mechanism. However, it is also important to note that nail-biting could be both a habit as well as a way of coping with stress or anxiety. This is often particularly the case if this habit has been with you since young – biting your nails could serve as a self-soothing mechanism and provide a temporary sense of relief or comfort.

In the circumstance that nail-biting serves as coping mechanism for you, I would like to assure you that you are not alone in this struggle, as many of us do subconsciously develop habits as coping mechanisms to manage stress and anxiety. I am curious however to find out whether biting your nails has caused any physical harm to yourself or affected your quality of life so far? While nail-biting may provide short-term relief, it could potentially also cause physical harm and lead to longer term consequences if relied upon excessively as a means for self-soothing. It may be helpful to explore alternative means of self-soothing such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation in times of stress or anxiety. I’m linking a few guided exercises here (1)(2) for you to try out.

You also mentioned previous attempts at trying to stop this habit. Here are a couple of other strategies you may wish to try:

  1. Be more mindful of patterns and triggers – paying attention to when and why the nail-biting happens would give you better insight on how to go about managing this. You could try keeping a journal, for example, to track this.

  2. Find a substitution for the habit. We could try to replace nail-biting with more adaptive behaviours instead – you could try squeezing a stress ball or using a fidget toy to start with, for example. If you notice that the nail-biting behaviour happens particularly when you are stressed or anxious, then we could also try out the relaxation techniques I mentioned earlier to help you manage in such situations. You may have to experiment with various things before you find something that works for you.

  3. Use physical barriers – you may wish to look into bitter-tasting nail polish products out there designed to help break the habit of nail-biting. This may help to increase aversion to nail-biting.

  4. Seek support in the process! Breaking a habit, especially if it’s been with you for so long, can be really time-consuming and effortful. Talking to trusted friends and/or family about this could hold you accountable and also make the process less taxing on you.

Lastly, I’d like to commend your efforts so far and simultaneously remind you that lifelong habits can be really stubborn – breaking them can be a challenging process that takes numerous tries. It is okay to take things at your own pace; this could mean perhaps starting out with trying not to bite your nails for one day before perhaps increasing that to a week. Remember that no progress is too small to be celebrated and be patient with yourself along the way.

Should you have any follow-up questions, please feel free to let us know. We’re here to support you in this journey and we wish you all the best!

(1) Deep breathing exercise -
(2) Progressive muscle relaxation exercise - Reduce Stress through Progressive Muscle Relaxation (3 of 3) - YouTube


Hi @YuanYang! thanks for the detailed response :slight_smile:

On your question of whether it has caused physical harm, I would say that generally it hasn’t, maybe except that because of nail-biting, my nails may have rough edges and I could accidentally scratch myself when I’m sleeping. But other than that, I guess I’m trying to break out of the habit because it’s a bit embarrassing when people see my nails…

After considering your questions, I figured that it could be both a habit and a coping method. I often find myself subconsciously biting my nails in the middle of doing long hours of work or when I’m facing difficulties at work. At that point, it becomes hard to stop the habit because it just happens before I know it.

But it is also a habit because I find myself casually biting them even when I’m relaxed, while watching shows etc.

A good barrier I found was the mask, during Covid-19, wearing the mask outside stopped me from biting my nails when I was out, though it didn’t stop me from doing so at home. I’ve also been using hard nail polish with the support of some family members and it started out great for the first week, all my nails grew out nicely but then afterwards, it got easier to peel the polish off, and therefore easier to bite the nails again… I’m still proud that 2 of my nails have successfully survived thus far though!

I feel that this has been an ongoing battle for a long time, and I often end up forgetting or giving up on it because of other things happening in life that I deem to be more important, and I always think that nails can grow back someday…

I’ll definitely try the method of substitution, maybe get myself a small fidget spinner that I can bring around everyday. Although, I’m worried about its usefulness compared to resorting to nail-biting since the nail-biting typically happens when I’m on the computer, and so I would need to type… so my nails are most accessible. Wonder if you have any thoughts on this?

I’ll continue to use the polish though!


A very beautiful answer by @YuanYang .

And @peanutbutter , I share the same habit for the last 19 years or so.

Let me get it straight, for me it’s deep deep very deep rooted in conscious.

There are a couple of products in the market but eventually it boils down to our own choices & priorities in life.

Unfortunately, avid nail biting can invite unwanted illnesses in our lives so make sure your stomach or internal health is fine.

In my life so far, I have solved it 2 times for a stretch of 1 month each.

I used sheer willpower and my self-awareness.

Self-awareness is the king to win over this habit. Then comes discipline and willpower.

Well, please note a couple of highly successful individuals are in the same nail biting habit but that’s not a license to keep doing it.

Highly unadvisable by doctors and society :laughing:

There is a syndrome attached to the habit of nail biting known as Onychophagia.

Make sure to keep your awareness in check during deep work, anxiety and stressful situations.

All the best.

Hitesh | Certified Mindvalley Holobody Coach

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