19 September 2008

It’s accepted that nail biting can be motivated by any of the following: stress, medical disorders, acquired behaviour, genetics or just plain habit.

Stress and Anxiety
Child or adult uses nail biting as a coping mechanism to relieve pent-up emotions. Nail biting is a habitual condition, a common reaction to stress and boredom. Nail Biters could also suffer from a poor self-image or could be punishing themselves for deeper-rooted problems or anxieties. Basically, nail biting is a rational substitution of one problem for another. In many instances nail biting is used as a tension reliever. Any kind of disharmony as a result of friends, family, work, or school can trigger the habit. 99% of nail biters have minor problems or a fixed biting habit. Fewer have a deep emotional problem of which nail biting is a symptom.

Medical disorders
Nail biting can also be symptomatic of some medical disorders. For example an emotional trauma brought on by the constant fights between his parents can result in nail biting. A child who constantly bites his nails may be suffering severe anxiety or a poor self-image. The habit will have progressed beyond a simple habit and become obsessive behaviour when the child's nail biting habit interferes with his daily functioning or with his social relationships. The fact that he gets teased at school is a sign of this.

Nail Biting Child
Nail biting is often an acquired behaviour not aware of the habit. The child resorts to such behaviour because of its association with some form of comfort or pleasure derived from it.

Studies also suggest that nail biting can run in the family thus indicating a genetic factor. This is also borne out by the fact that some children start biting their nails as toddlers.


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