When I was little I bit my nails a lot. I often did this when I was bored or zoned out. I tried several popular methods to stop this behavior like using bitter nail polish or snapping a rubber band around my wrist, but none of them worked. The problem was that I was never aware of when I would be biting my nails. When I did finally notice, I stopped.
As I grew up my nail biting behavior became more compulsive and harmful. I began biting during times of high stress or anxiety. I used to be able to stop when I noticed myself biting but things would become so bad that I would not stop myself. I would end up bleeding or getting hangnails. Furthermore, it did nothing to reduce my stress or anxiety. In fact it made my anxiety worse. The behavior was not only a coping mechanism but also a method for punishment, because I would feel awful after doing it. I did not accomplish anything by biting my nails either, but for some reason I could not stop. School only promoted this compulsive behavior. My perfectionist and controlling nature would be strongest during finals week which meant that my nails would be almost entirely bitten off by the end of the year.
Summers between school were different. I am less stressed so I do not feel the constant need to bite my nails. Summer would be the only time when my nails could grow out and I would not feel embarrassed about getting my nails painted. I enjoyed having nails to show off.
A compulsive behavior is performing an act persistently and repetitively without leading to any actual reward or pleasure. Nail biting is a very common compulsive behavior and may be a sign of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety Disorder. It is also bad for your physical health, because it could cause skin infections and allow germs to transfer more easily from your fingers.
Now that I am going to college I want to take a stand against this behavior. I have acknowledged that it is a detrimental and unhelpful coping mechanism to stress, which was a very important first step. The next step is finding something else that I can do that will not only manage stress but also keep me from bitting. I found refuge in writing and drawing which occupies my hands until the urge has passed. As a way to reward myself for keeping my nails long, I paint my nails almost every day so the color can remind me not to bite them. Sometimes I treat myself to a manicure!
In summary if you want to cut a compulsive behavior
1. Acknowledge that your behavior is ineffective and harmful
2. Find an alternative activity which will deter the compulsive behavior
3. Reward yourself!