nail biting

You can end your Nail Biting quickly, easily

Nail biting is about stress

Stopping nail biting is hard. This is because the problem is not the nail biting, it is your underlying stress. Your nails reveal how you think about yourself. It is outward sign of what is going on inside. But the good news is that it can be fixed. You can have good nails too.

Biting your nails is very common. About ten percent of adults bite their nails. Nail biting is something that people do unconsciously. It gets triggered by stress or frustration, often after long periods of non-biting. It affects men more than women.

In psychology, it is classed as a distraction behavior, similar to hair pulling, thumb sucking, teeth grinding, and nervous scratching. Nail biting includes chewing nails and picking your nails. They are all stress related.

Nail biting typically starts in childhood. It is a sign that the child is stressed. In most cases the problem then increases into the teenage years, and ends during maturity. However, for a lot of people, the nail biting habit continues into adult life.

There are several ways to stop. There are barrier methods, to stop you getting to your fingers. There are aversion methods, to make the habit unpleasant. There are distraction methods, to make you do something else instead. And there is hypnosis.

Most people can stop biting their nails after one hypnosis session.

Tips to Stop Nail Biting

All these tips do work, at least for some people. The problem is that when stress comes back into your life it puts you right back to biting with anxiety.

1. Visualize the nail biting consequences.

Disgusting stuff lives under your nails. Visualize what you are actually putting in your mouth. Your hands touch everything: dirt, germs, bacteria, dead skin - everything. And it all gets transferred into your mouth every time you bite or suck your nails.

Even if you wash your hands frequently, micro-organisms like fungus and viruses live under your nails in the nail bed. These get transferred to your mouth as well. Broken and bleeding nails just give a way in for even more nasty stuff.

2. Remind yourself

It is just a habit. There is no psychological element to it, other than belief that you can't stop. You are not mentally ill. Remind yourself constantly about why you want to stop. Write a list of all the reasons you want to stop and then copy them to bits of card.

Post these all round your house: on the fridge, on the door out, in your bedside drawer, on the dashboard of your car. And on the bottom in big letters write "I CAN DO IT".

3. Keep them short

Many people pick or bite because they think one is sticking out a bit, and therefore they all need be the same, and so they nibble on them. Keeping them all short with regular, even daily, trimming avoids that trigger.

4. Carry a nail care kit

Make sure you always have a nail file on you. Most people feel the need to bite or pick when they think there is some ragged bit that needs dealt to. So always have a nail file handy. Then you can spend the time carefully filing and smoothing, and gradually the biting habit will fade away.

As your nails recover from the abuse, you can then use things from your kit to maintain your nail's appearance.

5. Be good to your nails.

Use cuticle oil at night and it will get absorbed into the nails. Spend some time moisturising your hands daily. Book a regular professional manicure. You won't want to ruin them after they are looking so nice. Nail polish strengthens and protects nails, even men can benefit from clear polish.

6. Make a feature of your nails.

After years of hiding them, why not spend some time making them noticeable? As soon as you get some positive results, play around with different nail polishes, try some nail art, take an interest in them. Your interest will be repaid.

7. Use bitter oil

You can buy a bitter tasting oil to paint on your nails. It helps some people, but I have met many who just learn to ignore the taste and keep on chewing nails.

8. Distract yourself

Become aware of your triggers and do something to distract yourself. So if your trigger is when you are reading, give your hands something to do. Squeeze a ball while you're reading, or play with an elastic band.

As soon as you stop biting, your nails will continue to grow normally, and then you can go back to looking after them. Within  a few weeks all the damage will start to heal, and you will have nails to be proud of again.

Nail biting tips

Why do you bite your nails?

Causes of Chronic Nail biting

The original cause is stress. The biting or sucking, chewing or picking helps to distract you from the stress. Most people start to bite without even noticing it until it damage is done.

No one actually sets out to damage their nails. So it is not like you are choosing it as a way to deal with stress. But when you were a child it was an activity that took your mind off the anxiety.

Like pulling your hair causes pain, and makes you think about that instead. But it then became an automatic habit. Eventually, because it gave you some relief, you got addicted!

Compulsive nailbiting is often found with other anxiety related behaviors like over eating, drinking, smoking or gambling.

Triggers

Internal When you don't have something to engage you, when you are bored, your mind has nothing to do. So it goes back to reviewing all the emotional issues you haven't dealt with. And you start unconsciously biting again.

So when you doing something like looking at TV, or reading a text from a friend, it takes up only your surface attention.  Your unconscious mind is still working: your internal anxiety builds up and that triggers the act.

'I can't stop biting my nails. Happens when I am driving or alone or watching TV.'

External Anxiety It can be more general. I recall a woman who worked as a corrections officer. She had stopped biting in 2003, but started again a year ago when she got more responsibility at work.

Similarly, when something is going on that you didn't expect, that causes stress, and anxiety, so the biting starts up again.

Physical Maybe you are a bit of a perfectionist? You notice a tiny flaw in the nail, and want to fix it, but end up making it worse. Or maybe one nail is just a bit longer, and that can't be allowed.

Nail Biting Therapy

Is there a cure for nail biting? Some people will try to tell you that extreme nail biting is some sort of obsessive compulsive mental disorder. This almost never true. It is simply a habit that comes out in stressful situations.

Your fingernail biting habit is actually a distraction behavior. You originally started doing it as a response to stress. This has turned into a nervous habit that has gone out of control.

Various therapies have been tried. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is often used. Several habit breaking therapies are available such as Habit Reversal Training. The problem is that these are aimed at the symptoms, not the cause. The habit often returns later. You really need to eliminate the cause of the anxiety.

You can try dealing with the anxiety yourself. There are many forms of relaxation therapy. These help with reducing stress: Mindfulness Meditation, Relaxation visualization, Yoga, Focusing therapy and many others. They do help when you are aware that you are stressed, but do not deal with biting or chewing nails when you are bored or driving.

Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis is one of the most effective therapies for ending Nail Biting. There are two basic approaches.

Install a hypnotic trigger

It can help you make changes to your response to the triggers that set you off. Hypnosis makes you become aware of when you are about to bite, so you don't do it mindlessly any more. It can install a different trigger.

This hypnotic trigger programs your mind to instantly react to any move of your hand towards your mouth. The hypnotic trigger forces your hand away, and makes you feel disgusted at the idea of putting a finger in your mouth.

Hypnosis also leads you into a visualization of what life will be like with perfect nails. Many nail biters have never experienced that, and actually cannot imagine it. You rehearse how it be at a party, a work meeting, on a date.

The visualization triggers positive feelings about yourself, your hands, your confidence, your ability to change.  It replaces a lifetime of negative feelings about the effects of that behaviour.

Remove the source of anxiety

The most effective way to deal with nail biting is to remove the anxiety that is causing it. Childhood anxiety is something that you carry about with you all the time. It is always there, waiting to come out. When it is triggered, it starts up the nail biting, nail chewing, hair tugging, face scratching… whatever your anxiety response is.

As soon as you deal with anxiety at its root, the behaviour goes away. And it stays away forever.

Visualization Hypnosis for anxiety can be done using visualisations and metaphor therapy. For example, you can be taken into trance, and then told to imagine that you are carrying all your worries in a backpack.

Then you stop at a bridge and empty out the backpack into the river below. The water washes away. This sort of simple metaphor is very effective when it is delivered in trance.

Other metaphors are designed to give you the confidence to be all the things you don't believe you can be. For example, if your problem is a low self-image, you can be led into a room where a party is going on, and all your friends are there.

Then you can visualize yourself as being the center of attention, being applauded, encouraged and celebrated.

If you don't believe you're capable of changing, the hypnosis can lead you into a theatre with the stage. You stand on the stage and tell everyone in the audience that you have determined to stop the habit.

This type of public declaration in front of everyone you know, mixed in with suggestions of confidence and competence, plants the idea in your mind that you will stick to your resolve.

A special metaphor can be constructed to be the opposite of what whatever you believe is preventing you from stopping biting your nails. That way your mind gets convinced that you can do it, you can do it now, and you can do it forever.

Somatic metaphor therapy This is a very powerful technique that works directly on your unconscious mind. You will be asked to think about the feeling you get when you feel unsure, frustrated, anxious. You will then be shown how to experience that feeling somewhere in your body.

Then your unconscious mind will develop that feeling into a symbol or an object. Finally, in a number of stages you will be enabled to change that object little by little until it no longer resembles the original object in any way. At that point your anxiety is completely gone. Whatever was causing it doesn't matter, even if you don't know what was causing it.

Once you have altered it sufficiently, it is gone forever.

Most people can stop biting their nails after one hypnosis session.

As soon as you stop biting, your nails will continue to grow normally, and then you can go back to looking after them. Within a few weeks all the ugliness will start to heal, and you will have nails to be proud of again.

Nail Biting Cases

The angry father

This client was grossly overweight, had lank hair, and nails chewed down to the quick.  She told me she is taking medication for depression. She was clearly anxious. She said that she had had been anxious all her life.

I asked about the critical things in her life, and she said her father was verbally abusive, unpredictable.  She hated conflict and always had to be the peace maker at home. She was the oldest child and had to settle the conflicts at home.

She always felt not good enough. She is always afraid that there is something somebody doesn't like, and she has to keep everybody happy, or some bad stuff will happen, again.

She used to be even more overweight and had stomach bypass surgery.

I decided that I had to treat the anxiety first, so I put her into trance. Then I used hypnotic regression. In this form of regression, got her to visualize going down a long corridor with doors on each opening on to incidents from her life.

She was opening each door until she found the incident that started her belief about being worthless.

She opened on to a memory of crashing her bike into a garage door. She was frightened and hurt, but instead of comforting her, her dad got raging angry and threw the bike at her. This terrified her even more.

In trance, I got her to go back the incident, and rescue that little from that bad place. She comforted herself, and took that little girl away from the anger and fear. And then helped her let it go.

Then she did a visualization of entering a crowded room with every she knew there, and all of them approving of her and complimenting her. She liked that.

Then another visualization of walking along a gravel path, realizing she was dragging a net full of bad experiences, and letting her cut herself free from it. She really liked that.

The hypnosis continued with direct suggestions of her hands looking great. And then gathering with her kids around her, showing them her hands.

The session finished with a demonstration of hypnotic control. She showed her how powerful her own mind was to give her total confidence in her ability to grow nails.

I can't stop picking

This client was an attractive young woman who wanted to get into modelling. The only thing stopping her was her compulsive scratching and picking at her skin. It was destroying her confidence and her chance at a career.

I could find no particular pattern to her picking and scratching. It was just like nail biting. It started when she was entering her teenage years. She got acne and just wanted a smooth skin, so she picked at the acne to get rid of it. And then found that she could not stop.

I tried to find the emotion about picking, but all she gave me was what she thought about it. She could not get a deep feeling. So I switched to a different type of therapy.

I used hypnosis to put into trance. In trance, I was able to get her to demonstrate to herself the power of her own mind. I showed her that she was able to prevent her own eyes opening, or that her hand could move by itself. This was to convince her mind that she had the ability to stop the picking.

Then I used the visualization exercise. I got her to imagine her compulsion like some clawed thing like an octopus clinging to her back. She prised it off and killed it.

I then led her to a bridge, she looked over the side and saw her own face reflected in the water. I got her to visualise that the reflection was talking to her, telling her that she had beautiful skin and to protect it.

Then I visualized her meeting some magical figure. This figure identifies itself to her, told her it had been watching over her all her life, stroked her face and said that from now on there will be no more picking.

She said afterwards that she felt completely different about her skin now.

The harrassed bride

This was a young designer who lived 0n her nerves. She has to be busy all the time, can't delegate, has to be in control, hates being judged, everything has to be perfect.

Right now she is busy winding herself up about her wedding in February. And she needs to have her nails perfect before then.

To design the right therapy, I started asking about stress, what made her stressed. She immediately started getting weepy. Since she was now feeling a deep emotion, I used that as the basis for somatic metaphor therapy.

She said the feeling was heavy, like a large plate, flat, slippery, white, glossy. It was hard to get her to accept that she could change it, but once it started changing, she was away with it.

It turned into a card, then a laminate, then a coin. I asked her in trance what she want to do with it. Her unconscious told me that she could put with her parking money.

To finish the therapy I had to get her to destroy the coins. So her unconscious told me a big burly guy collected the coins and took them away!

To finish it off, I did more direct hypnosis suggestions about how she would turn of the nail biting causes.  A few week later she sent me a wedding invitation.

Don’t tell my mother

This client was an obese 18 year old, brought here by her mother. She said she wanted to stop biting her nails and to lose weight.

When I started talking to her it was immediately apparent that she had severe anxiety and almost certainly had depression. I led her through depression questionnaire,  and she identified with every part of it.

I know from experience that when young people come to therapy they always want hypnosis. However in this case hypnosis was not what she needed. What she needed was to learn about the lifestyle changes she needed to make get control of her anxiety.

Like most young people she went into trance easily. However it was noticeable that even going into trance her fingers were moving constantly. I have never seen such levels of anxiety in anyone.

In trance I showed her how to do self-hypnosis to control her anxiety. Then I used the normal hypnotherapy visualizations and direct suggestions therapy on her nail biting.

After that, I explained to her what she had to do to get a healthy lifestyle, and why it was important. To stop her anxiety overwhelming her again, I taught her two visualization exercises she could do to manage her own anxious thoughts.

She was very keen to try out the self-hypnosis. So we practiced her going in and out of trance right there. She was delighted with her new tools.

Because her mother had brought her, I asked her what she wanted me to tell her mother. She said "Nothing, she is the cause of it all".

 

Nail biting and blushing

This client had problems with nail biting and blushing. This was a particular problem because was a builder, and blushing didn't fit with the image. He has been anxious all his life.

He described how he gets red-faced and lacks confidence when meeting people. After a lot of analysis, I established that it’s because he doesn’t want people looking at him. He fears that they are judging him, and he will be not good enough.

He hates being criticized. He works extra hard to make sure that whatever he does is perfect and above criticism. He agreed with the analysis, but felt very surprised that he’d never thought of it before.

I established that nailbiting was not really his problem. It was basic anxiety. He agreed that we would go for the origins of his problems.

I tried to use somatic metaphor therapy. But after many attempts, he just could not get into the feeling. He was trying very hard. But something just wasn’t letting him get there.

So I did a quick relaxation induction. I then did a metaphor visualization of crossing a bridge to freedom. On the bridge, he met a powerful figure, who showed him how to let go of all the feelings of anxiety.

This figure then went deep into his mind to search and destroy the thing that was making him blush and cause nail biting. The session finished with direct suggestions about nail biting.

He was very impressed with the hypnosis. He could not make out who was on the bridge, but he said the thing that was destroyed was very ugly. And he was glad to get rid of it at last.

 

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