EXCLUSIVE: Nail biting is a behavioural issue that needs our immediate attention, says expert

Updated on Sep 16, 2021 03:55 PM IST  |  26K
If you have a habit of biting your nails, expert asks you to stop it right now

Once in a while we all must have seen our children biting their nails. We tell them to stop and usually get back to our work. But how many of us have taken it seriously and done something about it? Very few. Why, you ask? Because it is only a bad habit after all, or at least this is what we think of it as.

Nail biting, no matter how least concerning it may sound, is not only a mere habit, it is something much more serious.

Dr. Neeraj Nagaich, Senior Consultant, Gastroenterology, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Jaipur, tells you that nail biting is more of a behavioural issue. Children, or even adolescents, who are stressed or are anxious, take to nail biting to control their thoughts.

“This should be seen as a matter of concern. If you see your child biting his nails, there are high chances that he has a problem. Take out time for your child and try to ask what is stressing him/her out. If not controlled at the earliest, this can develop into an obsessive-compulsive disorder and will be hard to let go of,” says Nagaich.

He adds that nail biting can have serious effects on one’s health. “Nail biting doesn't only damage your nails, but it can affect your overall health. From oral cavity erosion to gastrointestinal issues, it can take a toll on one’s health. Poor digestion, frequent diarrhea, bad breath and trouble in chewing the food, are all a result of nail biting. Over time these issues can aggravate and make one fall seriously ill. And why not? Because there is so much of dirt and bacteria that lives or breeds in our nails and we are eating them in a way,” he says.

Nail biting can also lower one’s self-esteem to a large extent. “Seeing those bitten nails, that are often unpleasing to look at, in the public can tamper one’s self-esteem. Hence, it is important that one should address this habit as soon as possible, and before it becomes a matter of concern,” opines Nagaich.

A matter of concern, however, is the fact that not many see this as a problem and nobody talks about it. The reason being lack of awareness. “It is important that we spread awareness about the habit and the things it signifies. Parents and children alike should be taught about how it is not only a bad habit, but a threat to good health,” explains Nagaich.

One solution to this can be including the ills of nail biting as a topic in primary classes. “If nail biting can be added as a separate topic in the school curriculum, it would generate greater awareness about the ills of the habit. More so because parents would also be aware of the fact that their child is stressed or is going through a tough situation if they see any of these signs,” adds Nagaich.

While there is no permanent treatment to stop nail biting, talking to people would help. “One can also encourage them to practice breathing exercises. Yoga, meditation, or a visit to a psychologist, if required, would help cut down the habit. But remember this has to be done before the habit exaggerates,” advises Nagaich.

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