Bren Lee
December 08, 2015 5:53 am

Admit it: you’ve bitten your nails at least once or twice in your life. Some of us are guilty of doing it much more, compulsively gnawing at our digits until it hurts to type or text. We all know it’s a bad habit, but new research shows it’s also a sign of perfectionism.

Researchers at the University of Montreal have discovered that nail biters express the urge to chew more strongly when they are bored or unable to complete tasks in a timely manner. “We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviors may be perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform a task at a ‘normal’ pace,” lead researcher Kieron O’Connor stated in a press release about the study. “They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals.”

Does that sound familiar? For a compulsive or lifelong nail biter, this probably isn’t news to you. I had a bad nail biting habit that took me years to kick, and it had less to do with nerves and more to do with minor obsessing coupled with boredom. In severe cases, I just had to make sure the edge of my nail was perfectly smooth without an uneven ridge or hangnail in sight. If it wasn’t smooth, I would file it with my teeth until it was. What’s a bigger sign of perfectionism than that?

It wasn’t until I got jealous of everyone’s nail art that I forced myself to quit. No one wants to see sweater nail art on chewed-up cuticles.

If you’re trying to kick the habit, Psychology Today suggests replacing the habit with a new physical activity. So for example, if you feel a nail-biting inclination coming on, do something else with your hands—twiddle your thumbs, put your hands in your pockets, or even pop a piece of gum to distract you.

Another great way to handle this is by keeping nail clippers and a file on hand (haha!) at all times. That way, when the urge hits you will be prepared for when you see a hangnail. You can nip it with the proper tools and be done with it right away instead of trying to get it off with your teeth and possibly causing more damage. Sure, cutting your nails in public might be uncouth, but it’s so much better than spewing blood everywhere after you ripped off a cuticle with your teeth.

Acrylic nails may also help, but the most hardcore of nail biters knows they can gnaw those down too. If you do want to try using acrylics to kick your biting habit, I suggest looking into 3D nail art. It’s really, really difficult to bite off a nail when there are metal spikes glued onto your nail (it’s also really hard to adjust your bra strap when you have metal spikes on your nails, just FYI).

For those casual nail biters, you don’t actually have much need to worry. “The positive effects of the habits are stimulation and a (maladaptive) way of regulating emotion,” O’Connor told the Huffington Post earlier this year. “What triggers the habit is largely frustration and impatience so the action substitutes for more constructive action.”

Basically, it’s a way to channel energy while waiting for inspiration. There’s no reason to be ashamed at the casual nail biting occurrence, especially when under pressure. It just confirms what you’ve always known about yourself: you’re perfect.

Related:

Forget nail art, naked manicures are the new trend

(Images via Shutterstock)

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