Many people underestimate the degree to which nail biting can affect one’s life. Consequences range from interference with personal relationships and work to negatively affecting health and one’s overall sense of well-being. The following paragraphs will describe the ways in which nail biting can influence one’s life.
The most apparent effects of nail biting are physical. Serious nail biting, where nails are bitten down to the nail bed, can be severe enough to result in bleeding, open sores and disfigured fingertips. Oftentimes, the fingers hurt for several hours or even days after a serious nail biting episode. The prolonged wetting of the fingertips during repeated biting can lead to brittleness of the nails. More extreme problems, such as ridging, or even permanent nail loss, can occur from damage to the nail matrix.
The emotional impact of nail biting cannot be overemphasized. The feelings of shame, helplessness, and frustration can take a tremendous toll on sufferers. Many sufferers are constantly worried whether someone catches a glimpse of their short, ragged fingernails, and thus go great lengths to hide their problem. Cover-ups that are employed include balling the hands into fists, carefully folding the fingers or simply letting the hands rest under a table. Ordinary social activities—a date, job interview or work presentation—that most people take for granted can become a hassle to nail biters and only be conducted with great anxiety and secrecy. One thing most nail biters have in common is the upset and guilt they feel over what they have done, and the fact that they could not stop themselves.
Aside from ruining the hand’s appearance, nail biting can also affect the health. Cuticle biting can inflict lasting damage as well: The folds of skin at the bottom and sides of the nail are living tissue, and their presence prevents moisture, bacteria, and other environmental toxins from getting underneath your nail plate and causing damage. By biting and picking off your cuticles, you limit your skin’s ability to protect the sensitive nail bed and increase the likelihood of catching an infection. Some dentists even claim that nail biting leads to dental problems by exerting additional pressure on the teeth’s roots.
Difficulty Performing Practical Tasks
The soreness and tenderness that nail biters experience can make performing everyday tasks painful and difficult. Actions such as untying one’s shoelaces, picking up coins or small objects from a flat surface or opening a key ring can feel impossible to do with short nails. Other activities that are difficult to perform include tearing open food packages, turning book pages, taking off ear rings or opening a necklace. For many nail biters, even the mere act of holding a pen or typing on a computer keyboard can be agonizing.
Nail biting can affect one’s social life, too. Deformed, red, and swollen fingertips are unappealing and may cause friends, family or colleagues to shrink back and withdraw from bodily contact. The effect can be even more profound in intimate relationships, such as with a lover. Chewed-off fingernails are an instant turnoff, and many people do not want to be touched by someone whose hands look unappealing. Women especially are expected by society to have beautiful, well-groomed nails, so they may suffer socially even more than men.
If left untreated, nail biting can negatively impact many aspects of a person’s life from everyday activities to psychological well-being to health and general happiness.