Fingernail Biting Habit

Since as long as I can remember, I have been biting my nails. My mom said I was biting my nails as a baby. Before I was even talking. Although apparently I didn’t talk until I was 3 years old and that is long enough to cause some worry in the parental units around. People thought I was going to be a mute. And then one day I just blurted out a whole sentence, none of this “mamma” bullshit. But I digress…

I have always had success not biting my nails when I was traveling. Not sure if it was due to the dirty conditions I was living in or the fact that I had other things to keep me occupied. I never really could figure out when I bite my nails. From what I can gather it is a matter of imperfections. I feel the slightest thing sticking out and then I need to smooth the nail down. Which then causes another imperfection. And eventually I get to this point where I have somehow destroyed my nail bed and I have these large pieces of regular skin in fornt of my nail before the end of my finger. I use these as grippy points to be able to pick up things. Dimes have always been my worst enemy as far as picking them up and I will often just leave a dime on the ground or need to slide it all the way over to a crack.

Here is a picture of them as they have always been prior to this cold turkey effort.

Initial Nails Picture

The history of my attempts have gone somethin like this… First attempt was to by the “No bite” stuff which I eventually began to grow fond of and would go through bottles daily and asking my dad to keep buying more. The next was to buy this stuff which was to stop horses from chewing on the wooden posts in their corrals. This was extremely effective and worked into my college days. However this tactic came to an end when my neighbor and good friend played the best practical joke of all time on me. He and I were both playing sports at school, he swam and I played soccer. He would have early morning practice and then come back and want to sleep. I would just be waking up when he was sleeping so I would sneak into his room and spray this shit into his mouth while he was sleeping. I would get such a rise out of watching him first lick his lips, and then start to wriggle and squirm, and then eventually leap up spitting and gagging. I always wondered what that did to his dreams at that point. So Geoff, being the smart guy that he is, dumped out the entire bottle one day and filled it with water. When I would subsequently spray this stuff into his mouth, he would act out his reaction enough to make me feel satisfied, and then go back to sleep. Meanwhile I was biting my nails more and more and thought I had built up a tolerance even to the horse repellant.Since then there have been small bursts of weeks of no biting but never anything to write about.

A week after that last picture, they look like this.

1 week

And now almost a month later they look like this.Look at that pinky!


So the problems I am and will run into are these. I cant help but get large amounts of dirt underneath the nails. I am just a dirty boy. So I then use my other nails to pick the dirt out from underneath them. Which in turn weakens the nails. So I just wash my hands more. Another problem is that they grow really long but are not that thick so they can brake easy creating these imperfections that taunt me oh so much. Not sure how to solve this one other than to cut them and then file them to be short again but allowing the underneath part to slowly grow until the end. The next is just maintenance. The skin around the outsides needs to be taken care of all the time it seems. What a fuckin hassle! I also find myself flicking the nails probably weakening them as well.

I will admit that I do not really have the urge to bite them anymore so maybe I have crossed the hump. But if I were to bite them, oh man what a feast that would be.

If you are wondering if I bite my toenails the answer is I used to when I was little. But now I cannot reach them anymore so I dont have that problem.

Click here for part two…

  • Hi Luke, I was interested to see you write about a personal habit that few speak of in public. I am a chronic nailbiter and have been since I was a kid (I’m now in my late 30’s) Did your experiment to stop biting work? I’d be interested to know if you have any tips. You think your nails were short? If you want to see how bad they can get I’ll send you a picture of mine! Hope to hear from you. Cheers Steve PS really interesting blog – you certainly get around!

  • PJ

    Luke, as a severe nail-biter who tried everything to stop, I finally learned to accept the habit as part of who I am. I went to a shrink in my 20s who said I fall into a statistical subgroup of men world-wide-about 10%-who are chronic nail biters and not to worry if I can’t stop. When I stopped worrying I felt better about myself. I know it is not a pretty or sanitary habit, but I am not ashamed to bite my nails any time, even in public. I’m also a family and career man. Hope you are successful in your efforts. If not, learn to accept and enjoy the habit. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s not.

  • Peter

    Luke, I’m a career and family man who is a severe nail biter. The urge is so uncontrollable that I bite my nails all the time, even in public. I bit them the whole time on visits to Asia, Africa, and India. In my mid 20s I sought professional help and found out I can lead a normal, happy life even if I bite my nails. I hope you are able to quit the nasty, filthy habit. But remember that the habit is incidental and you can be happy and successful whether or not you bite your nails.

  • Pingback: Finger Nail Biting Habit (part 2) | Luke Ollett and his Blog()

  • Steve Peacock

    Hi Luke, PJ and Peter! Seems like you have started up a topic that few of us openly discuss. You write about there being nothing physiologically or psychologically you cannot control or change. I guess I thought the same when I was as young as you! However my youthful dogged attitude actually temporarily damaged me in that my quest to stop nail biting became an obsession. So the guilt, fear of ridicule and exposure was more traumatic than just the fact that the ten nails on the ends of my fingers are shorter than most other mens.
    In all my years of being a nail biter I recall about 5 instances when someone actually raised the topic: the first was my current partner, two others were nephews who also bite their nails, one a work colleague – also a biter and the last my doctor who commented that “I was a bit old for such a childish habit” during a regular medical examination. I was able to laugh off the doctors comments but with my fellow biters tried to tell them that it was of no importance and that they should not worry about their habit. My partner is used to me chomping away on my nails and just ignores it.
    So, if you are agonising about your habit and see-sawing between abstinence and chewing on your digits I suggest you take the line of least resistance. You have so many other interesting things going on in your life (according to your blog) that a bunch of stumpy fingernails should just fade into insignificance.
    One aspect of nail biting that does intrigue me is the extent to which people bite – i.e. how short they are prepared / like to bite their nails. Yours are pretty severely bitten, just like mine in the photos I sent you of my hands. I wonder how Peter and PJ rate their fingernails alongside ours? Interesting to discuss this – I hope others continue to contribute. Cheers Steve

  • Peter

    Hi Steve and Luke. I confess my nails are more severely-bitten than Luke’s before he quit the habit. But I’ll bet neither of you guys bite or ever bit your toenails, which I did until I lost the flexibility in my early twenties. When my high school wresting coach caught me biting my toenails in the locker room I became known as trenchmouth on the team-which I went along with as a sport but was terribly ashamed about. Fortunately, I am no longer ashamed about my fingernail-biting habit, which I have learned to accept as part of who I am. In any event, I hope Luke succeeds as an ex-onychophagist.

  • Steve

    Funny how this subject has stimulated my interest in discussing nail-biting! In the past it was just a part of me and something rarely acknowledged by friends or work colleagues.
    Lukes’ Blog appears to have moved on to other things but if Peter would like to discuss it more with me directly please contact me at [email protected] As I look at my nails now, I see that my behaviour is not “normal” (whatever that is!) so conversation with another open-minded onychophagist would be appreciated. Cheers Steve

  • Same position as you, man. I also bite them because of imperfections. I started trying to cut the nail-biting habit back in May/June, but I kind of failed…. first acrylics (worked for a little while, till I bit off half my grown nails afterwards), then the “one-nail-at-a-time” process, and so many more… I kept letting them grow so the imperfections wouldn’t show. My nails are currently nice and long (people compliment them! COMPLIMENT THEM!!). My dream is to get them long enough to use a nail clipper for the first time in my life (maybe 2-3 more weeks till they’re at that length ;D).

    Yesterday, the nail on my index finger on my right hand chipped… and god, I bit it off, trying to “fix” the imperfection. The result? I bit it down to a stump… LIKE BEFORE.

    Grrrrr. I gotta start carrying around a nail filer.

    On the good side, this is the first stump-nail incident since July/August. ;)

    But now I have to wait for THAT nail to grow out again, so I can have my nail-clipping dream come true… SOBSOB. So add on another 2 months till my dream can come true. ~_~

    CHEERS, and hopefully both our goals are met. ;)

  • That tale could not have been any more similar to things that have happened to me. As I opened your comment in my email, I was biting my nails, and I had to immediately stop, so thanks for that.

    Well done none the less… any particular secrets to our success that you care to share or was it just sheer will and determination?

  • Hum… it was kind of both. The whole nail-biting thing got really annoying, since my nails were a PAIN in the butt – the bleeding and aching (happening as we speak on that one nail – argh, hate it). I also started to kind of care about how I looked (having my hand in my mouth all the time is NOT attractive!), and the fact that people care about it.

    At first it was REALLY REALLY hard – I mean, I just HAD to bite them, and I didn’t really pay attention. At first, with the acrylics, it was okay because I just nibbled on plastic and whatever, but then I ended up chipping + breaking about 3 of my acrylics and well… it just doesn’t look good that way. By the time I managed to get them all off, my own nails had grown a bit.

    I had long nails for about a week, till I started to bite them again – one by one, I bit off my new pretty nails. When I bit off one, it was just kind of “*shrug* it’ll grow back, whatever”. Then finally, I just kept letting them grow… and grow… and I realized that the “one” that I didn’t care about made a HUGE difference – just like having one acrylic nail off threw everything off.

    So with huge determination and willpower (it was hard – trust me), I stopped biting my nails. If I ever felt that need to BITE, I nibbled on the nail (especially my thumb, which up to this day has sported my longest nail yet – though sadly, it ended up breaking when I dropped a book on the floor, and it took my nail with it), but not to the point of breaking them. Sometimes, if an “imperfection” came up (say, I chipped my nail), I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold in my impulse of biting it. So what I did is, I DID bite it, but kind of “trimmed” it. Like, if the edge of my nail chipped off, and it was sharp and totally off, I bit it to lower the sharpness, but when I “fixed” that (hardly), I stopped myself before I continued – that way, I had a bigger chance of lasting the rest of the day before I got my hand on a nail file at home (which is why, from now on, I will start carrying a nail file with me – EVERYWHERE).

    Wow, did that make sense at all?

    ANYWHO, it’s been a long road, and I’ve still not reached the end (I stopped biting them for no reason whatsoever, but the whole “imperfection” thing still bugs me). However, I think the reason I’ve managed to control myself is because, damn, do my nails look GOOD when they’re long (as I said, people compliment me! Hell, my friends are even jealous ;D), and it just further motivates me from not biting them off – in fact, if I do (like I did with my index finger, whom i’ve mentioned having bitten off yesterday about 50 million times), I feel guilty and kind of hide my nail from sight – hahaha.

    I just think the path to getting the first pair of long nails is the hard way – but once you get them, you’re just like “damn!” and don’t want to bite them off again. :) Easier to control.


  • Peter

    I’ve written on this blog before. I suffer from chronic onychophagia like you guys, only I bite my toenails too (very privately, of course). I could never overcome the uncontrollable urge to bite my fingernails. About 5 years ago, I broke my left wrist and couldn’t bite my nails on that hand for about 8 weeks. But when the nails grew in my fingers looked deformed and more unsightly than when bitten down. Of course, you can imagine the feast I had when I could get to them. I’ve learned to live with the habit. Wish you guys the best of luck in overcoming our crude, dirty habit. I know a few people who had hypnotherapy that worked. For me, it didn’t do anything.

  • Peter, for some strange reason, your post made me burst out laughing.

    “Of course, you can imagine the feast I had when I could get to them.”

    Oh God, I almost DIED.

    Trust me love, not biting your nails… so worth it. I slightly chipped one of my nails, and I’m OH-SO-VERY TEMPTED to bite it off… GRR. Been controlling my urge for the past 24 hours, I’m sure I can last a bit more till the initial impulse goes away…

    ALSO, another tip I thought of… painting your nails (though of course, females might like this option better). You know that white thingy that shows when your nails are grown out? Well, personally, that area bugs me and is just ASKING to get bitten off. How to help myself? I cover it up with some sexy nail polish. I use really dark shades, too, like black or whatever, to help me out… haha…

    It also helps covering up imperfections too… haha…

  • Dubby, I have this image in my head of someone with artificial hands like the Anikin in the star wars movies, hidden by a robe, and when you truly desired to bite them, and revealed your hand from the shroud of the cloak, you bust out a metal hand to then be able to resist. Well done.

    I have been failing recently, I have concluded the computer is a problem for me as when I am in front of it, and presented with a dastardly problem, i then bite.

    Something I am realizing recently with the nails is that when I go for a period, and have developed some gnarly looking healthy nails, I still have this urge to bite. As you have backed up Dubby. So even though I want some amazing looking nails where people give me comments, I still have a problem when I get to that point. I go back to the bite. What is the underlying desire to bite? Lets solve that, and maybe we got somethign to work for…

    I have been recorded doing some hypnotherapy, in front of 400 people granted. Fail to see how that could save my desire to not have my hand in my mouth making my nails hurt.

  • (I hate my blackberry, kthx)

    Yea, getting to that point is hard… damn.

    Like I said, I started with acrylics… I kinda just started with letting them grow a bit, and like I said, I kept biting them off even after getting the acrylics off. I’m not the type of person to bite off an entire hand in one sitting, so by the time I bit off, say, 3-4 nails, the remaining nails had grown to a considerable length. Seeing how pretty they were, I just managed to control myself… of course, I did relapse a few times (but not 100% completely), but when I did, I kinda was upset for it.

    It’s a crapload of willpower. But just think… no more bleeding nail and cuticles! Yaaay!

  • Peter

    Guys, you’re obsessing about nail-biting which is not good. It will create a success-failure cycle, make you miserable, and ultimately reinforce the habit. Try to relax if you intend to stop and not beat yourself up when you relapse. Most people who stop succeed that way. It’s the same process when quitting cigarettes. If you’re really hard core like me you may not be able to stop. In that event, learn to live with the habit. On the other hand you may outgrow it without trying. Remember, You can be happy and successful whether or not you bite your nails. There are millions of very successful and respectable people who are nail-biters. Besides, your girlfriends will tolerate it if they love you. I’m a married man and can attest to that.

  • I’m a woman, darling. ;) I personally can’t tolerate seeing the horrific state of my nails while I attempt to make the rest of me to look… well, good.

    I don’t find nail biting as hard to quit as cigarettes (I’d know). It’s just awful. At least cigarettes doesn’t cause stupid-ass bleeding and achings (well, in the long-run it’s worst, but no one cares about long-run).

    Still picking at chipped nail… erm… I wonder how much longer I can last.

  • Peter

    Dubby, if you can’t quit the nasty habit, make the most of it. Personally, I find women with very short bitten nails seductive, particularly with red nail polish. There is also a group website on FLICKR you might want to visit titled “Girls Who Bite Their Fingernails.” I’m not defending nail-biting–essentially a crude and dirty habit–but am stressing there are worse things to worry about. Humans have bitten their nails for time immerorial and will continue to do so. I used to feel bad that bit my nails and felt I was condescended by some people. I got over it by not hiding it and by biting my fingernails in public when the urge struck. I was also very ashamed that I bite my toenails and could never admit it until fairly recently. Of course, I only do it in private, but I go barefoot and wear flip flops in warm weather which makes it obvious. If you’re interested you can check out my photostream on FLICKR under PJ86.

  • razina

    I was pretty sick lately and had nothing much to do so I would just google random of those random things was nail biting and that is how I stumbled upon your blog all the way over here in south africa =) read a few of your pieces and I really liked the travel inserts….have you ever travelled to south africa? Definately a destination must.There was alot of americans over in SA for the world cup and other than the occasional do you hop on giraffes to go to work remarks they werent annoying tourist american offence intended.Thanks for the nail biting info,glad to see its a global problem.ciao.

  • Razina, thanks for the read. Glad you found some interest here in my little corner of the internet world. I am currently writing my latest blog about how I have almost conquered biting my nails, with some pretty drastic before and after pictures. Well 9 of the 10 nails have figured out, you´ll see. Thanks for reading.

  • razina

    Luke,it was a pleasure to read,kept me occupied whilst sick.I would not say I have conquered biting my nails much to the annoyance of my mum,girls are not suppose to have untidy nails,everything suppose to be groomed and was never really one to care but as I got older and found my inner girl hehe I have begun to try to defeat my habit.I think it would be easier to climb table mountain than stop biting my nails.I will wait in anticipation to see the progress of your nails.

  • allan

    hello, i had the same problemm than you, i’ve recently stopped to bit my nails,it’s difficult,
    and you do you resist, can you send me pictures of your hands , thanks

  • razina

    Hi luke..How goes it? =) what is the progress on the nails.I was tinkin bout that COZ i was shopping a few days ago and there was this promptional spa product things in this mall,the products had real gold 9 carat in it…lol…thats how we do it in South Africa,so ofcorse any sane person if chosen to try out these products for free would jump at the opportunity,having been chosen to give it a try by this very good looking guy,I realised he was offering me the chance to try the hand range which meant a free gold laiden manicure! And I REFUSED becoz I remembered the state of my nails =( So I made up an excuse that I am running late and could not try the GOLD manicure! =( And my nails are looking particularly awful these few weeks becoz I am going to be travelling by plane and I am very nervous about flying so naturally I vent off the nerves on my nails.For the first time ever have I really hated my nails…….gold manicure…sob sob sob

  • Joe

    As long as a man is an adult he has a right to keep the dead white off the ends of his nails whether by biting, clipping or other safe means. Long nails are for women(and drag-queens, trannies, she-males, etc.) and children.
    As a man I am proud of my manly short nails, my beard, male-pattern baldness, mechanical aptitude and other masculinity as well.

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