Do you have issues with nail biting? You’re definitely not alone. Studies show that somewhere around one in five American adults bite their nails. Luckily, researchers and doctors say there may be a promising treatment to try if you want to stop.
Why People Bite Their Nails
Nail biting, also called onychophagia, is considered a body- focused repetitive behavior. There’s not a great deal of extensive research around why people bite their nails, and the causes may differ greatly from person to person. Additionally, not everyone bites their nails in the same situations or at the same frequency over the years.
Often, however, nail biting may be a coping mechanism rooted more in anxiety, boredom, stress, or even loneliness as opposed to a physical need that has to be taken care of.
Why Nail Biting Is Bad For Your Health
Nail biting can lead to a number of physical health issues, including tissue damage to the nails and cuticles, mouth injuries and dental problems from years of biting, and bacterial infections. There can even be an increased risk of colds and other common illnesses as well.
Moreover, nail biting can be a source of embarrassment or shame for many adults, and it can even cause relationship problems with family members, friends, and other loved ones.
How to Stop Nail Biting
What’s the secret to stop chomping on your nails throughout the day? Scientists and dermatologists say that an over-the-counter antioxidant and amino acid called N-acetyl cysteine (NAC for short) could be a useful treatment. NAC can be found in your drugstore’s vitamin or supplement aisle or online (Buy on Amazon, $9.99). It works by sending signals to the brain that make the feelings of nail biting less rewarding.
While the research is still new, Dr. Jon Grant, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago, recommends that nail biters interested in trying out NAC take a total of 2,400 to 3,000 milligrams per day but separated into two doses. It isn’t necessarily an overnight fix, and could take up to three months to see if there’s a significant change.
The side effects of NAC are generally mild and may include an upset stomach if high dosages are taken. The recommended amount, however, shouldn’t create any feelings of discomfort. As always, check with your doctor before taking a new supplement.
Dermatologists also suggest trying special bad-tasting nail polish that can also deter nail biters throughout the day. Experts also say that behavior therapy may be a smart additional option to get to the core reasons for why you’re biting your nails in the first place.
Regardless, nail biting relief could be just a quick trip to the drugstore away.