How often have you been interrupted amid a conversation because you had to chide your friend who constantly keeps biting her/his nails? Or, how many times in a day do you irritate your friends and companions with this habit of yours? Chomping your nails might be a pastime for you or you might be a chronic, incorrigible nail-biter – in both the scenarios you’re not alone.


Photo by Kritika Narula

Here are two reasons why you are asked to stop biting or picking at your nails:

It is gross.


Gif courtesy of

College is grooming us to be thorough professionals, and now imagine this: You are in a serious setting, say a cubicle of your prospective office. Granted, you’re justifiably nervous. Now, out of habit, compulsion or momentary impulse, you start biting your nails. What impression do you think that’d leave on your fellow (prospective) colleagues? I say prospective because, at this rate of nail biting, your score on professionalism might well go in the negative and jobs might elude you. At the very basic level, think on these lines: Nail biting is to grown-ups what thumb-sucking is to infants.

Not to mention, it also happens to be a foolproof way of damaging the manicure.

One Word: Onychophagia


Gif Courtesy of Tumblr

Some people bite nails as a way of keeping them short/of uniform length. Some people bite the nails, some also tear around their cuticles and skin. All of this puts skin health at stake, which is what the jargon Onychophagia refers to.

Why I use this fancy term is because I need to bring in the required gravity to the discussion. The habit of nail biting, whether instinctual, as is claimed, or stress-induced, as is observed, has grave consequences. Skin infection, uneven fingernails, and spreading of warts are a few of these consequences.

Some studies, however, even claim that nail biting is a sign of perfectionist demeanour. Not sure if perfection should come at this price? We may even talk about how to treat this habitual evil. But to do that or to decide whether it really is a bad habit, we need to peek into the reasons behind this apparently instinctive and seemingly harmless act.

The Possible “Whys” of Nail Biting

Theory 1

Sigmund Freud theorizes that nail biting is attributable to arrested psycho-sexual development. Just like other Freudian concepts it is mired in controversy, assigning the blame to causes like under-feeding or over-feeding, breastfeeding too long, or problematic relationship with your mother.

Theory 2

Inward hostility? Yes, you heard it right. Biting your nails ruthlessly and constantly is a way of mutilating and inflicting self-harm. It could be a possible symptom of OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Theory 3

Apparently, being bound by habit does no good. As simple as it gets. You bite your nails because you’re anxious, or in deep contemplation and the instinctive way to comfort yourself is to bring your fingers to your mouth. The rest just happens on its own.

I won’t mention the number of times I bit my nails while writing this article.