How to stop nail biting

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Monday, March 10, 2014

DEAR Dr. Fritz,

I am Steve. I am 19 years old and a college sophomore. My problem is quite embarrassing. I still bite my nails at this time, especially when I am anxious or even if I am just bored for anything. My friends would even call me "kuko" instead of my first name or surname. I hope you can help me.

Thanks and more power.


Steve Nails


Dear Steve Nails,

I understand your situation. Who would want to be called as "kuko" instead of one's first name or surname? But, maybe, your friends called you "kuko" to discourage you from gnawing your nails. After all, you are no longer a kid. I surmise you may have not gotten past your childhood's pleasure zone. Remember that the mouth is the pleasure area when we are young. Mama would put pacifiers over our mouth to keep us calm so, we love to put anything in our mouth, including our thumbs and nails. The problem is you seemed to be stuck in here.

Stress and boredom -- these are the main culprits for people to bite their nails. You do have both. This is often your body's way to relieve you from anxiety or to keep yourself occupied while your mind lacks interest. Other emotional triggers include frustration and loneliness. Genes may also play a role, though.

The problem with nail biting is it can leave your fingers red and sore and may even bleed and become infected. This can also harm your teeth making them poorly aligned and weakened. Moreover, your nails wouldn't look good. All of these can lead to problems with self-confidence and ultimately giving you more stress and anxiety.

Since you know your problem, I know you'll help yourself out. The following are some techniques which I hope can help you in your quest.

1. Coat your nails with polish. The bitter taste will prevent you from doing the bad habit again and again.

2. Keep your nails short.

3. Get a regular manicure. You'll less likely to gnaw your nails if you spend some fortune with your nails.

4. Manage your stress. You can try yoga, meditation, deep breathing or squeezing some stress balls. You can also listen to some soothing music. Or if you have some money to spend, go for a vacation. If you want some entertainment, go watch some comedy box office hits instead of horror or thrilling movies since the latter can make your situation worse.

5. If you're bored, chew some gums instead of your nails.

6. Try putting some rubber bands around your wrist and snap it whenever you want to bite your nails.

7. You can also wear gloves or self-adhesive bandages at your fingertips. Of course, if all of the above fails, you have to see your physician or psychiatrist. Your nail biting can mean a more serious psychological problem, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which can be managed well with counseling and medications.

Good luck!

Dr. Fritz

(For your questions, you may send them to Dear Dr. Fritz, c/o Sunstar-Davao Publishing Inc., Ebro-Pelayo Building, Jacinto St., Davao City, (former Department of Foreign Affairs office), across Ateneo de Davao University and beside Holy Child School of Davao, or you e-mail them to We regret that we cannot answer all your questions. Thank you for your understanding!)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 11, 2014.


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