Nail biting—as well as its close cousins hair pulling, skin picking, knuckle cracking, lip chewing, cheek biting, and other body-focused repetitive habits—usually happens without a conscious decision; instead, we discover ourselves with the aftermath—nubby nails, a lip callus, or an accumulation of inadvertently pulled-out hair. 

Body-focused habits can begin at any age, but they usually begin in childhood and peak in the pre-teen years—around ages 11 to 13.  But whether you’re young or young at heart, if your nervous habits are bothering you, check out these 10 tips to stop body-focused behaviors like going dental on your digits.

Thanks to listener Sylvie Daley of Marshfield, Vermont for asking how to stop nail-biting, which inspired this week’s topic.

Tip #1: Don’t worry—it’s not an indication of some deep, dark, unresolved issue.  Instead, there’s evidence that hair pulling, nail biting, and other body-focused behaviors have a neurological origin and are genetically based.  Hair pulling, for instance, seems to run in families.  It even goes beyond our species; animals like monkeys, cats, dogs, and mice sometimes overgroom.  

 

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