Nail Biting: Causes, Consequences And Treatments

The consequences of nail biting can be social, emotional, and physical. The physical ones can be problems in the teeth, gums, digestive, lesions in the lips and cuticles, infections in the nails or malformations in the fingers.

Although in principle it is a habit to which we are accustomed and it is not usually given importance, it can cause different consequences in the person, especially physical, some of them being serious and even irreversible.

Bitten Fingernails

This behavior usually begins in childhood, reaches its peak in adolescence, and usually disappears in adulthood. But in other cases it persists leading to serious or very serious consequences in some cases.

In any case, and whatever the reason the problem started, there are important consequences of nail biting that are often ignored or unknown. These consequences can be classified into three categories: social, emotional and physical.

Main consequences of nail biting

Consequences at the social level

On many occasions, maintaining the habit of biting nails can lead to situations of social isolation, shyness, and even social phobia. The person is aware of the bad appearance of their nails and even their hands, and it is a part of our physique that is usually very visible.

Sometimes you try to hide your hands causing nervousness for fear that they will see each other. In the most serious cases the person can avoid social gatherings, and even jobs in which she has to be exposed to hide her problem.

There can also be social stigmatization, in most cases promoted by family members or people around them. It is common to make comments to people who bite their nails such as “stop doing it, look at the ugliest nails” or “it’s a very unpleasant habit.”

In the event that this occurs with children, it can generate a feeling of deep guilt and shame that leads to long-term consequences, in adulthood, such as low self-esteem or insecurity.

Consequences on an emotional level

Nail biting and not being able to stop can have serious emotional consequences such as sadness, anger or low self-esteem. As with any bad habit, trying to quit and see that you are not capable can lower a person’s self-confidence.

In this case, you are aware that continuing with this habit is detrimental to health and aesthetics and does not contribute anything good. But still the person cannot stop doing it. As in the case of other bad habits, the person may need help and external support to achieve this.

Tooth problems

Perhaps this is one of the main and most serious consequences of maintaining this habit in the long term. When biting your nails, your teeth can become deformed, worn, and even out of their natural position.

According to experts in this field, biting produces microtrauma that gradually causes the loss of enamel in an almost imperceptible way. And in the case of people with dental prostheses, they can fracture. It is also more likely the appearance of cavities in the area of ​​the affected tooth.

One of the consequences derived from the above is the increased sensitivity when biting or swallowing, with the discomfort that this entails. In the most serious cases, pain in the jaw may appear due to the constant effort and movement that is being made when biting.

It may also be the case that by modifying the natural position of the teeth, the shape of the bite may be modified.

Gum problems

In the most severe cases, in which the habit of nail biting has been maintained for a long time, lesions in the gum tissue may appear.

This tissue is very sensitive and protects us from bacteria and other pathogens. If this tissue is damaged it can lead to diseases such as gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (bleeding gums, bad breath).

Digestive problems

A lot of dirt and bacteria easily accumulate on the nails. Being in direct contact with this surface can lead to digestive system problems and infections. And particularly stomach problems can appear when the person in addition to biting the nails ingests them.

Lip lesions

In some cases, infectious abnormalities such as warts or herpes may appear in the labial area due to contact and continued rubbing with the nails. People who have warts on their hands should be especially careful, because having constant contact with the mouth is possible for the appearance of these to spread through the lips.

Cuticle injuries

The function of the skin that we have around the nails, among others, is to protect it from possible infections. When biting the nails it is very common to damage and bite the cuticle. In this way we expose ourselves to infections caused by bacteria, fungi or viruses, because this skin stops protecting us.

Finger deformations

In the most serious cases, in which the habit of biting nails is maintained from childhood until well into adulthood, a deformation of the fingers may appear. The lateral edges of the finger are raised or twisted in their growth, causing their irreversible deformation.

Nail biting affects normal nail growth

They grow unevenly, and without covering all the necessary surface. The nail becomes an uneven surface, and prone to breaking because the nail layers are not evenly distributed when biting.

It comes into direct contact with different bacteria that can cause diseases of different kinds. Nails are a place where dirt easily accumulates and bacteria can be present.

Some of the bacteria that we usually accumulate in this area of ​​the body are Salmonella and E. Coli, which can cause serious health problems. When biting them, these bacteria are transported to the mouth and therefore to the rest of the body. This can lead to different diseases and infections in any part of the body.

Nail and finger infections

Bacteria and germs on the nails and in nearby areas can enter the body through small wounds that appear around the nails. These types of infections can cause swelling and / or pain in the areas that are close to the nail and are very common among people with this habit.

In the most severe cases, over time, the nail can stop growing, becoming small and deformed forever. This happens if the matrix of the nail that is below the cuticle is damaged.

This damage is irreversible so once damaged it cannot be repaired. In the most serious cases, it may even be the case that the nail is completely lost and it never grows back.

Causes that develop the habit of biting nails

Although there are different theories that explain the acquisition of this habit, most agree that it is a habit that is acquired in childhood and is perpetuated in adulthood.

And in other cases, when it begins to be done in an older age, it may be a behavior that results from the stress or anxiety that the person suffers at a certain time.

It is a way to relieve tension, which in many cases becomes an automatic gesture. When the person feels anxiety they bite their nails and feel a relaxation and relief when doing so.

Some people only do it in specific situations or moments that generate greater tension, for example before a job interview, an exam, a divorce, etc.

In this case, although the habit may have started from a specific situation, once acquired it is very possible that it will continue and it will be difficult for the person to stop doing it even if the event that caused it has disappeared.

Emotional factors

It can also result from the combination of a series of emotional factors such as sadness, anger, worry, insecurity, shame, fear and even boredom, which can lead to having this habit. In other cases, although it is less frequent, the person does it out of intense emotion in the face of a positive and joyful event such as receiving good news.

In any case, people who bite their nails have associated this behavior with a way to relax and calm down. It is also often associated with a specific situation, for example, while waiting for the bus I bite my nails. Therefore, whenever you find yourself in the situation waiting for the bus, you bite your nails because it is already associated.

For this reason, it is so difficult to stop biting nails because they lack an alternative in which to seek tranquility or release tension and because it is associated in a very strong way. So much so that most of the time it is done unconsciously.


Kicking this habit when it has been around for years is a very difficult task. People who carry it out usually indicate that they do it almost unconsciously and that once they are doing it it is very difficult to stop doing it. But given the possible consequences it can have, it is highly recommended to start trying.


On the one hand, there are different products that can be used to put it on the nails and in the areas around them. In some cases they are used to give a bitter and unpleasant taste to the nails and in others, the function of the product is to harden the nail so that it is difficult to bite.

But this should be taken as a temporary solution, because in most cases, the person ends up getting used to the taste of the product and it does not prevent them from continuing with the habit despite using said product.

Nail care

Another option may be to start taking care of your nails. It is especially effective when the appearance of your hands causes embarrassment and isolation. Take care of the nails, cut them, paint them, etc. and seeing the good result and resulting effect can get the person to achieve the necessary self-control to stop biting them.

You can also resort to performing a gel manicure to avoid direct contact with the nail and not being able to bite it. But on many occasions and after a prolonged period with this type of manicure, the nail can be damaged.

In addition, the fact of using this type of manicure makes there a greater propensity to infection because germs can accumulate between the false nail and the real one, humidity that leads to the appearance of fungi, etc.


In other cases, if the problem persists and the habit derives from a situation of anxiety or stress, it is advisable to go to a mental health professional to treat the underlying problem. By eliminating anxiety or learning tools to manage it in a healthy way, the habit of nail biting can be avoided.

Change of habits

Changing habits will be necessary if you want to try to stop biting your nails without the help of a professional. In short, it is about changing the habit of biting your nails for another that causes well-being or relaxation.

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