19 September 2008

Nail-biting is a common stress-relieving habit in children and young adults, affecting around 30% of children between 7 to 10 years and 45% of teenagers. It is usually not a serious problem for children. It becomes most common in adolescence when almost half of all children bite their nails to some degree.

Anxiety, stress, genetics, boredom, acquired behaviour and self-esteem have all been identified as potential causes. Nail biting can be anything from a bad habit to an outward symptom of a medical or emotional disorder.

While nail biting and picking seems to be such a common problem, the psychological and medical research does not agree on an exact motivation for the action. However, for no matter what the reason, chronic onychophagists (nail biters) will be acutely aware of just how difficult it is to break this destructive habit.

You may bite your nails in times of stress or excitement, or in times of boredom or inactivity. It can also be a learned behavior from family members. Nail-biting is the most common of the typical "nervous habits," which include thumb-sucking, nose-picking, hair-twisting or -pulling, tooth-grinding, and picking at skin.

People who bite their nails without realizing you are doing it. You might be involved in another activity, such as reading, watching television, or talking on the phone, and bite your nails without thinking about it. Nail-biting includes biting the cuticle and soft tissue surrounding the nail as well as biting the nail itself.

Treatment depends on the individual, should address the reason why your child is biting his nails. If your child is under a lot of stress, try to reduce the stress.

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