Biting nails have often been related to lack of confidence. But does it limit to only that? Could it also reflect deficiency of any sorts? It is believed that nail biting is your body cannibalising itself when you have a calcium deficiency.
The condition (called onychophagia) is one of several (joined by hair pulling or trichotillomania and skin picking) which are a sub-group of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. One of the characteristics of this sub-group is that they become habit patterns. The behaviors can be associated with tension and, to the extent that they are, can serve a tension reduction purpose. However, once established as a habit, they may not really be associated with tension. It is important to treat these conditions with medication and therapy. Medications commonly employed are the serotoninergic agents, such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Luvox, Lexapro and also Anafranil. Some clinicians also imply a type of B-vitamin. In addition, to augment the serotonin medications, agents such as Ripperda, Zyprexa, Geodon and Abilify can be useful, particularly in intractable cases. Therapy consists of Cognitive-Behavioral treatment and involves Habit Reversal Training along with Exposure and Response Prevention. Medication alone will help but not likely solve the problem.
Risks of Biting Nails
- End up ingesting Disease-Causing Bacteria: Nails are an ideal location for bacteria to thrive, and that includes potentially pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli (which would love to call the underside of your nail tips home).
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As you bite your nails, those bacteria easily transfer into your mouth and the rest of your body, where they may lead to infections.
- Paronychia: Paronychia is a skin infection that occurs around your nails. As you chew your nails, bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms can enter through tiny tears or abrasions, leading to swelling, redness, and pus around your nail. This painful condition may have to be drained surgically. Bacterial infections caused by nail biting are actually one of the most common nail problems, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)
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- Warts: Warts are small bumps on the skin or mucous membranes caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV. These warts can easily spread to your mouth and lips as you bite your nails.
- Dental Problems: Nail biting can interfere with proper dental occlusion, or the manner in which your upper and lower teeth come together when you close your mouth. Your teeth may shift out of their proper position, become misshapen, wear down prematurely, and become weakened if you bite your nails over time.
- Impaired Quality of Life: A study published this year found that people who chronically bite their nails report significantly higher quality of life impairment than those who do not. The level of impairment rises with time spent on nail biting, the number of involved fingernails and those who report visible nail abnormalities. Tension when trying to resist nail biting, suffering due to nail biting or nail-eating behavior also negatively influenced quality of life.