I don’t think anyone bites their nails because they really want to, or because it tastes good or anything. It’s a nervous habit that’s bad for your teeth, usually results in painful cuts on your fingers, shorter nails, damage to the nail itself, and embarrassment. But practically everyone has either struggled in the past or still struggles with some form of nail biting. It’s just a dirty, human thing to do.
I was a dedicated nail biter for many years. I tried the polish that tastes bitter; it wasn’t bitter enough. Grossly, I bit my nails anyway, for years. Eventually, I knew I needed to stop biting my nails if I wanted to have nice hands that didn’t hurt all the time.
The pain was really what made me stop biting my nails, and it also influenced step one of my two-step method to quitting biting. It worked for me and my sister, and kind of involves brainwashing yourself a little bit.
Assess your fingers and the current damage to the skin around your nail. Notice where there are hangnails, cuts, and torn cuticles. Wait for these cuts to heal. Don’t worry about the nail; just consciously make an effort to stop biting any skin around the nail on the finger and further any irritation.
You need to remind yourself at this point that you are doing yourself a huge favor by letting all the little cuts on your hand heal. And if you make a mistake and relapse, just go back to waiting for the cut to heal. It’s a process, and it takes time.
The goal here is having a sustained amount of time with no cuts on the fingers, to feel how nice it is to not have pesky wounds on your fingers all the time. You cannot go on to the next step until you have completed this step, so keep your hands out of your mouth. You’re doing more harm than good.
Assess how much better your hands look without hangnails and cuts. Then look at your nails and see what needs to be done to make your nails even.
If you are not a severe nail biter, you should see some white of the nail showing. For severe nail biters, there could be no white showing, and chances are that finger is perpetually in a lot of pain, especially when pressure is applied.
The goal here is to let nails grow out to a length that is no longer painful, and file the nail into a shape that will grow out nicely. Generally, nail shape should mimic the shape of your fingertip. But shaping the nail is not step two--I’m getting sidetracked.
Step two is about preparing the nail to grow, and that involves filing away any ragged edges and just creating a smooth surface on the nail to prevent snagging. Once the nails (in whatever condition they are) are at least smoothed out, you can paint any clear polish on top to seal the nail so it can grow.
Sometimes, it takes years to recover from nail biting, and it's very a painful habit when you really get into it. You need to remind yourself this to the point of paranoia while simultaneously maintaining a sustained period of having no pain.
The key is to just try to leave your hands alone. Pretty soon, you’ll enjoy pain-free hands and consider it normal.