7 Struggles Of People Who Bite Their Nails

The urge can strike at the most inopportune times.

There are precisely zero reasons to bite your nails.

Nail biting is unsightly, it can damage your body and it's often a visible result of stress -- yet so many of us still do it without a second thought.

Nail biting occurs most often during puberty, with about half of all children between the ages of 10 and 18 biting their nails at one point or another.

But not all adults are able to kick the bad habit.

While very few people are seriously affected by nail biting, there are plenty of little disadvantages that plague the lives of casual nail biters.

Below, 7 struggles any nail biter will relate to:

1. You have no idea you're stressed until it's too late.

LeBron James bites his nails during the Eastern Conference finals in 2007.
LeBron James bites his nails during the Eastern Conference finals in 2007.

You look down and realize your fingers are an uneven, jagged mess, and that's when it hits you: You need to find a way to chill out, and STAT.

Nail biting has long been associated with stress and anxiety, and according to Dr. Richard O’Kearney, a psychologist in Australia, nail biting is a way to distract ourselves from bad thoughts or feelings.

“The function it has -- probably across all people who do it -- is originally to manage negative feelings,” O’Kearney says. “It is generally benign and learned as a habit, and may function to manage distress."

In other words, nothing says you need to relax like freshly nibbled nails.

2. You'll have perpetual hang nails.

Nail biters are caught in a never-ending loop of biting, ripping and tearing. Biting your nails can damage the skin underneath the actual fingernail, which can then result in hangnails -- which, of course, are just begging to be picked at.

The roughness of hangnails leads to more picking and before you know it, you've hit the nail-biting trifecta: a bleeding, swollen, potentially infected nail.

3. The urge strikes at the most inopportune times.

A contestant bites her nails during Miss Italy 2008.
A contestant bites her nails during Miss Italy 2008.

When you gotta bite, you gotta bite. For many of us, there is no rhyme or reason to when the urge will strike, but when it does, you're powerless to resist it.

You might be sitting in a meeting or even on a first date when you notice that one, perfectly grown nail just begging to be ripped off. It doesn't matter that everyone will be grossed out by you, in that moment, not even national news cameras could stop your hand from gravitating to your mouth.

4. There isn't always a discrete way to discard "clippings."

Will your colleague notice when you dump a whole pile of nails into the trash bin by his desk? Will your new boyfriend see the secret stash on your bedside table you forgot to throw out? How about the neat pile you left in your car's cup holder because you were bored in traffic?

That's the awkward predicament we nail biters frequently find ourselves in.

Who knows if people notice. But even if they do, it won't stop us from biting, because...

5. We know it's disgusting -- but we enjoy it too much to stop.

We know it's unattractive. We know it grosses you out. We know we really should stop. But even as we see your disgusted face, judging us yet again, we can't resist the urge.

The American Psychiatric Association's DSM, short for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, actually categorizes "pathological groomers" like nail biters together with mental disorders like OCD. But as NPR points out, there is one significant difference: whereas people with OCD don't find any fun in being OCD, pathological groomers enjoy their compulsion.

"It's rewarding," Carol Mathews, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco told NPR. "It feels good. When you get the right nail, it feels good. It's kind of a funny sense of reward, but it's a reward."

6. We have manicure envy.

We'll never have a french manicure. We don't know all the clever Essie names by heart. We'll always be slightly ashamed when someone's gaze innocently falls on the stubby ends of our fingers.

And when we do decide to try a manicure, let's just say the manicurist's disapproving sigh and embarrassing lecture about letting our nails grow is not uncommon.

But we know the truth: stubby nails can be beautiful too!

7. Ineffective scratching.

You've just reduced all your fingers to perfectly soft and rounded edges. You're feeling great about this achievement when suddenly it hits you: a deep, cloying itch. Your freshly shorn nails are totally useless to you. It's like trying to scratch with oven mitts on.

And that's when you question your commitment to nail biting. Because the only urge worse than wanting to bite your nails is wanting to scratch something till it stops itching.

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