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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Nail Biters Anonymous? Nah, it's just a nasty habit.

There's a stupid article at Slate Magazine (that's nothing new, Slate articles are usually pretty dull, dumb, or full of themselves -- sometimes all of the above; still I keep scanning the headlines...) anyway, the article is about nail biting.

I've been a habitual nail biter for as long as I can remember, and I think it's always going to be something I deal with. There was a period of a few years where I curbed the habit of biting my nails, but I never could stop the motion of bringing my fingers to my mouth and feeling my nails with my teeth.

In the stupid Slate article, author Emily Bazelon says this about trying to break the habit: "The obvious lesson is that addicts don't quit unless they want to." And here's what I have to say to that: First, this ain't an addiction, it's a habit, and there is a difference, and second, if quitting was as easy as wanting to, I'd have cut this habit out of my life years ago. The problem is that biting your nails is largely a subconscious action. Usually, I don't realize I'm chewing my nails until it's too late to save my poor little white tips. Conversely, not biting my nails takes a lot of mental effort. Because the path of least resistance is to continue subconsciously biting my nails, that's what tends to happen.

Even so, I'd like to have nice looking nails at some point. I've just recently tried to curb the habit again, and I'm having success with all my fingers except my thumbs. But, like last time, I haven't stopped feeling my nails with my teeth. It's almost a comfort to me, although I'd say it's only a comfort in its familiarity, like how thumb sucking or blanket clinging is a comfort to kids. It's not so much a nervous or anxious action as it is something I'm familiar with.

For awhile, I was deliberately keeping my nails trimmed because I was playing the guitar a few hours every day, and it's more comfortable for me to play without having to angle my fingers to make room for my fingernails. But these days, unfortunately, I haven't been playing my guitar very much, so I've decided to try my hand at quitting the habit (wink wink).

There are many different tactics for kicking the nail biting habit, and none of them is foolproof. For me, regular manicures work best, because if I have any jagged tips, I'm much more likely to try to "fix" them by biting, and of course that always makes things worse. When I was in junior high, I tried painting my fingernails with polish frequently to curb the habit. I had some success with that, but mostly I ended up eating a lot of polish, which is probably worse than biting the nails in the first place. Some people try putting nasty flavored shit on their fingernails, but like I say, even when I'm not biting, I'm feeling my nails with my teeth, so that simply doesn't work for me.

Overall, I don't think the habit is such a big deal. Maybe that attitude is just my way of accepting a problem that I will probably always have. But frankly, most people who don't bite their nails don't have particularly attractive real nails anyway. I'm not a huge fan of acrylic nails, but they at least look uniform and pretty... unlike this creepy lady's nails:

(Picture by Tom Smart of Deseret Morning News, used without permission)


Yeah, I'd rather bite my nails any day over that!



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8 comments:

Sovknight said...

When I was a kid I found out that I'd be getting braces for my teeth. In preparation for that, and because of a bad overbite, I had to wear an appliance in my mouth for over a year called a "frankle". I'm not exactly sure what the real name of this thing was, but it consisted of two plastic pieces in the cheeks, and sets of wires that ran around both top and bottom sets of teeth. The purpose was to set my jaw a certain way, and prepare me for spacers and whatnot, which eventually led to the braces I would wear for years. This initial device was a pain for several reasons though, the least of which was that it didn't allow me to close my mouth all the way. When I wore it, (which was 24/7 unless I was eating) there was a half-inch or so gap between my teeth.

Why am I telling you this? Simple. It cured me of the nail-biting habit permanently. To this day, hundreds of years later, I've never bitten my nails since. Thanks orthodontics!

Sra said...

Aw, see? That's my problem. I'm one of those rare people who has perfectly straight teeth but never needed braces. So that's why I still bite my nails!

Stubbs Nomore said...

I bit my nails for most of my life. When I finally figured out how to quit, I decided to help others quit too. It's true, you can't quit unless you want to. It's also true nail biting is not an addiction, but most who do it will swear it's just a hard to quit as most addictions. You can stay away from booze, cigs and drugs...get them out of your life. Not so easy with your fingertips conveniently attached on the ends of your hands. I started the www.NailBitersAnonymous.com site to help nail biters have a place to come get and give help. It's just getting going, but I have high hopes for it to be a catalyst for change. I also wrote an book called How to Stop Nail Biting. It comes with a no questions asked 90-day money back guarantee. That's because if I can't help someone, I don't want or need their money

Sra said...

Thanks for the link, I hope that business works out for you. I have quit before, and I know what works for me personally. But at this point I don't find this habit to be at the top of my self-improvement list. Maybe one day.

Sra said...

Thanks for the link, I hope that business works out for you. I have quit before, and I know what works for me personally. But at this point I don't find this habit to be at the top of my self-improvement list. Maybe one day.

Stubbs Nomore said...

I bit my nails for most of my life. When I finally figured out how to quit, I decided to help others quit too. It's true, you can't quit unless you want to. It's also true nail biting is not an addiction, but most who do it will swear it's just a hard to quit as most addictions. You can stay away from booze, cigs and drugs...get them out of your life. Not so easy with your fingertips conveniently attached on the ends of your hands. I started the www.NailBitersAnonymous.com site to help nail biters have a place to come get and give help. It's just getting going, but I have high hopes for it to be a catalyst for change. I also wrote an book called How to Stop Nail Biting. It comes with a no questions asked 90-day money back guarantee. That's because if I can't help someone, I don't want or need their money

Sra said...

Aw, see? That's my problem. I'm one of those rare people who has perfectly straight teeth but never needed braces. So that's why I still bite my nails!

Lissa said...

I bit my nails for 24 years.  Then, I had my wisdom teeth taken out, all four of them at once, and I couldn't bite them for two weeks.  Not being able to bite them for two weeks made me realize that it was possible to stop. I just had to have self control.  Now, I have nice looking natural nails. I love them.

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