What is Onychophagia?

For SHA Wellness Clinic
Monday September 14th, 2015
Health & Beauty

Nervousness, boredom, emotional disorders and stress are some of the causes of onychophagia. Many people experience this compulsive habit of nail biting without realizing that sometimes it can turn into a chronic disease.

Onychophagia is not just a problem of appearance but it’s directly related to health as it may cause:

  • Transport of germs.
  • Injuries or bleeding cuticles.
  • Nail deformity.
  • Dental problems such as tooth decay.
  • Gums Injuries.
  • Chronic paronychia (inflammation of the cellular tissue of the fingers).



The reasons can be divided in two types: psychological or psychosomatic reasons.

The psychological reasons usually happen because of nervousness, anxiety, stress, compulsive states, boredom or fear. People don’t usually realize they are biting their nails and this increases in periods of increased exposure to situations that cause suffering, as a way of channeling pain or self-punishment. Breakups, organizing an event like wedding preparations or preparing a long journey, unemployment or change of employment status, are some examples.

There are other psychosomatic causes that affect emotionally such as domestic violence, changes in the family unit, pressure in studies, new members in the family that are not accepted, low self-esteem, shyness, frustrations or more personal aspects.



Here we present a series of tips that can help you quit this bad habit:

Look for substitutes – As with people who try to stop smoking, try to calm the anxiety of trying to bite something with substitutes like gum, candy, a stick or a piece of fruit.

Paint your nails – Keeping the nails polished, even if they are short, can be a good way to avoid eating them. The color or the bad taste of the nail polish can help you get away from this bad habit. Many pharmacies and drugstores sell transparent glazes specially designed to prevent nail biting as they are made with a bad smell and taste.

Fake nailsArtificial nails can be of great help. The problem with this remedy is that it can weaken our real nails because of the products used.

Protectors – Today there are special gloves to prevent this disease. They are made with latex and placed on the fingers. In winter you can use woolen gloves.

Set achievable goals – If you find impossible to leave this bad habit, try to start little by little. For example, start with a hand first. So you can see the difference between a bitten nail and a growing one and motivate yourself.

Seek help – You can ask your friends and family to tell you something if they see you are biting your nails. You can also make an appointment with a professional if it is due to stress or anxiety.

Home Remedies – As we know it is not easy to stop nail biting, we present you some effective remedies:

  • Pour two teaspoons of valerian or passionflower in a cup of boiling water. Cover and let cool, strain and drink one cup a day. These natural sedatives will help you put aside the stress and anxiety that cause this bad habit.
  • Chew a piece of ginger root previously washed and stripped. This food will help you reduce anxiety.
  • Put lemon juice in your nails or rub them with a clove of garlic to avoid putting them into your mouth. You can also cut small pieces of garlic and put into the nail polish.
  • Incorporate foods rich in vitamin B and Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet. They can be  found in nuts, wholegrain cereals such as oats, chocolate or fish. They will help to calm anxiety and feel more comfortable with yourself.


Now that you know what’s onychophagia and these little remedies to avoid it, start practicing them and say goodbye to this bad habit!


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