Nail Biting

Saying that I bite my nails is an understatement. Not only do I bite my nails, but I also bite the skin around the fingertips, and use nail clippers on my nails and skin, and pick at my fingers. My fingers will bleed and hurt. I hate it, it hurts, and it looks ugly… yet, I gain something satisfying from it that makes it incredibly difficult to stop.

I’ve tried to “just stop” but it’s not as easy as you might think. I will mindlessly do it when I’m first waking up, when I’m in the shower, when I’m watching TV, or listening to someone talk, or any other assorted activity of daily life. When I catch myself, I will actively continue my destructive behavior while simultaneously telling myself to STOP IT! It’s an obsession that’s been solidified through years of unintentional conditioning. Why did I ever start? When did it start? When did it progress to more than just nail biting? I don’t even know!

I don’t ask for help anymore because people give me the same “solutions” and seem to think I’m lying about ever having tried them and their ineffectiveness. I tried the bad tasting nail polish and super hot coating on my nails. However, I chewed through it, peeled and scraped it off, and used nail clippers. I worked around it. All the other useless tips, like putting band-aids around your fingers, didn’t work because it only gives me more stuff to pick at which actually re-enforces the destructive behavior!

I chewed through acrylic nails…no, it’s not impossible because I did it. I gnawed on them until they softened a little, cracked, chipped, and broke. There was one time that I ripped off the nail that it was attached to. I didn’t mean to do it and it hurt like you can’t imagine, but it didn’t stop me from destroying the rest of them.

I had asked my husband and friends to help me stop, but the anxiety it produced was too much. The anxiety makes me more prone to this destructive behavior and induces a lot of other anxiety ticks. So this isn’t the right way to quit either. The rubber-band trick (snapping yourself) is just as bad.

Since I successfully kicked my chapstick addiction, which was hard, and I’ve done a rather excellent job of wrangling in a couple of phobias, I am inspired to try kicking this obsession! I have managed to stop doing this to my feet. For the first time in who knows how long, I have actual toe nails and fully formed skin on the soul of my foot and toes. I find myself occasionally touching along the edge of the nails wanting to pick at them, but I’ve been successful in willing myself to pull my hand away. It’s nice to have a scratching instrument without having to search for it, because it’s attached to my body! It feels weird to have toe nails because I’m not used to the feeling of them when they catch on something. If only I could do this well with my fingers!

I’m being self aware and trying to gently quit this behavior. I’ve stopped using negative re-enforcement because it doesn’t work and causes too much stress. I’m trying positive re-enforcement and I’m being cautious not to replace this nasty habit with another one. No gum! Unfortunately, due to my ear issues (many surgeries), chewing gum too much causes some serious ear irritation (story for another time). I know it all seems like excuses, but when you have an anxiety disorder, it’s a balancing act. It’s all cause and effect. So far, positivity has been my key to success on everything I’ve accomplished. I’m not a weak willed individual, nor do I have discipline issues. I’m actually extremely willful and disciplined, likely as a result of this anxiety induced OCD. This is probably why it’s so damn hard to quit!


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