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Nail Biting

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Childrens' Nail Biting Adults' Nail Biting Related Pages

21-month-old nail biter

May 2003

My 21 month old is very oral - everything in the mouth - and began biting his nails around one year of age. The nail biting has increased in frequency since his first birthday and now his nails are down to the quick. As soon as we say, ''not in your mouth'' he will immediately take his fingers out of his mouth to slip them back in a few minutes later. He'll even try to bite my nails! Is there a non-toxic yucky tasking gel we can put on his fingers to dissuade the biting? Will this go away on it's own? Any advice is appreciated! Jennifer


My daughter started biting her nails around the same age as yours but it seemed to taper off at age 3. She liked nail polished nails, so I used to tell her letting her nails grow would make them stronger & longer as well as easier to wear polish. I tried not to get too uptight about it and felt better when the directors of her day care said it was common for kids her age to bite their nails and it doesn't necessarily mean they're stressed about something. You can still emphasize ''strong and healthy'' nails for picking a guitar, or whatever. anon
I have not had your problem, but recently I had a problem with my daughter whining. There were several things that helped my daughter whine less and they might work for you. One was telling her I'd wink at her when I heard her whine. She got this non-verbal communication from me that I knew what she was doing, but won't respond until she spoke to me in a different tone. I also hugged and kissed her sometimes when she was whining and increased the amount of affection I was giving her in general. Distractions like playdoh and stories and so forth also worked. I also often pointed when it was special time for the two of us to choose something for the two of us to do. I got these ideas for Jane Nelsen's Positive Disicipline. It's one of the most valuable books I've ever read. Good luck. Our children go through so many rapid changes with their development that can lead to nail biting or whining and the like. Karen

2 year old bites her finger nails

Oct 2009

Hello Out There, Just in the last couple of months my bright and cheerful 2 year old has started biting her nails. Our family has been going through a rather long relocation/ transition period, which has put extra strain on her dad and I and our relations. We strive to just keep her environment regular and steady with our daily rituals and to keep our relationship struggles private, although sometimes the energy leaks out. I don't know if these things have created a situation where she might need to relieve stress by nail biting or if this in the range of normal behavior? At any rate, I am concerned about her well being and I don't want this to turn into a life long habit. How do I tend to this in the most responsible manner possible? Any other parents of young nail biters out there? Thanks!! Michelle


Funny timing on your question. Our 3-year-old was biting her nails consistently and it was bothering me and we bought something called 'Bite Free' which looks like clear nail polish. It worked pretty quickly and my daughter stopped biting her nails. She is now 11 and we just came across this lightly-used bottle this weekend and my daughter said ''Oh, I remember that stuff! It tasted so terrible--I'm glad you used that on me because I like my nails now'' I was about to recycle it since we don't need anymore. If you want to take it, just email me and you can pick it up. I'm in Rockridge. Good luck! Christine
My daughter bit her nails at that age, too-- although I can't think of any particular stress we were under. My pediatrician told us it is very common and not to worry about it. She stopped on her own at some point around age 3 or 3.5. We never mentioned it to her or fretted over it-- in fact, I was taken by surprise when I realized I had to start clipping her nails again. -Now she's ready for her pedi
Hi, This is my story of nail-biting, which I hope can at least provide some perspective. I started biting my nails as a small child too, and wasn't able to quit until I was around 20, despite being interested in having long, glamorous nails as an older child and teenager.

I did not bite my nails out of stress, and I think most people do not. I mainly bit them when I was inactive - i.e. watching television, in school, or reading books. I tried many, many solutions - painting them, putting nasty-tasting stuff on them, etc. My parents tried talking me out of it and at least a couple of times bribing me. Never worked, despite the fact that I would have loved to quit.

The only solution that ever worked for me was to put a rubber band on my wrist and snap it enough to produce a little pain whenever I found myself nibbling. It took care of the problem in days. Obviously your kid is much too little for this kind of solution. I virtually never bite my nails now except when I'm in situations of enforced stillness - mainly on airplanes and in movie theaters. I'm generally a fidgety, active person and I still have a tendency to pick at things.

I'm not sure there's a thing you can do for your kid at this stage, and I wouldn't be quick to attribute the nail-biting to stress. It's the common widsom, but I don't think it's correct. And once you eliminate worries about your kid being stressed, nail-biting is a pretty small problem. As a bonus, I have a pretty darn good immune system at this point in my life (despite parenting two little kids who go to daycare/preschool.) I'm sure I got constant exposure to MANY more things than some of my peers!

I know this doesn't offer any solutions, but I hope it helps. Former nail biter


My son started biting his nails when he was 3 1/2, out of the blue. I think it comes with the territory of being more aware of the world around you, being scared or nervous, etc. He had just started a new gymnastics class... He stopped doing it around 4, and started again this fall, when he started preschool. I think this is a phase...no worries. a Berkeley mom of 3

25-month-old biting her nails

Oct 2003

My 25 month old daughter is biting her nails. I haven't had to trim them for awhile! I was surpised that something like this should show up at such a young age. Any suggestions? Kate


Sometimes nailbiting is a form of pica, the eating of non-food items. Pica can result from a mineral imbalance, most usually iron or calcium. Nori
My 3 1/2 yr. old used to nail bite at about that age. The directors at her day care advised me it was just a developmental stage and common for kids that age to nail bite. It didn't mean she was necessarily stressed about something. Since she liked to wear nail polish, I used to tell her to let her nails grow a bit and then we could polish them. For a boy, you might talk about being able to play a guitar or something. My daughter grew out of it naturally after a year or so. anon

3.5 yr. old always biting nails

Feb 2009

My 3.5 yr. old daughter bites her nails. I regret that I may not have been attentive enough to her nails when she was very small, and she developed the habit out of necessity! So what do I do now? My husband also has this habit, although I do ask him to stop. I know that women I know who have this habit suffer from it and are frequently embarrassed by their hands. I would like to avoid this for my daughter if possible. Sarah


Try Mavala Stop - a paint-on formula that's recommended for nail biters and thumb suckers. It has a REALLY nasty bitter chemical taste that stopped our 8-year-old thumb sucker in his tracks after just one application. PB
Purchase MAVALA STOP on Amazon.com. It has no scent and works like magic. It killed my son's relentless habit of thumb sucking and my nephew's habit of nail biting in less than a week. We'd place it on when they were sleeping and never knew what happened but have no more habits. Follow through and she will stop for life! been there
Our daughter started peeling off her finger nail tips at about that age, and I was concerned about it until I read the book ''Your Three Year Old'' by the Gesell Institute, where it stated that at about 3.5, many kids will start some kind of repeating behavior on their body such as biting nails or twisting hair, which they will outgrow. And our daughter was 4 in October and no longer plays with her nails. So, it's probably just a behavior normal for the age that she will outgrow. Mom of 2

4-year-old has started biting her nails

May 2008

My recently turned 4 year old daughter started biting her nails to the quick just before her 4th birthday. Her father, grandparents, and I are desperately trying to figure out what we can do or say to get her to stop biting her nails. We are also concerned about what's triggering the nail biting. Anxiety, fear, boredom? When I ask her why she does it, she either does not answer or she says ''. . .because I like to''. Any suggestions? We tried hot sauce once, but she actually liked the taste of it. We have tried bribery, such as promising a special treat if she can abstain. Someone suggested gloves, but I have not been able to find gloves in her size. Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you. Concerned Mom


Both my children are extremely oral. They both bit there nails starting at age 3. It took each of them a year to stop.I had to constantly remind them to keep their fingers out of their mouth whenever I saw them do it. I also provided them with''chewy toys'' which they could chew on instead. I got these from ''The Therapy Shoppe'' online. They look like the letter P and have no latex in them. After, a year each one was able to stop. Actually, I am amazed since both my husband and I bite are nails and I know how difficult it is to stop. When she says she likes it. She does! You have to be consistent and positive. Tell her you know she can do it! Also, try to figure out when she does it. In front of the TV? During quiet time? While reading a book? Make sure she has her ''chewy toy'' during these times! Keep at it!

4 year old has taken to biting her nails

May 2000

My nearly 4 year old has taken to biting her nails. Any successful strategies & remedies that stop this habit? Thanks! Rebecca


Is your child under some sort of stress? Is he favoring some fingers and not others? Homeopathy and Jin Shin Jyutsu may be helpful in sorting out underlying and helping any underlying issues contributing to this habit. I began nail biting around that age and, in retrospect, think additional stress from a new sibling and another eye operations were factors.
My daughter started biting her nails in kindergarten. We talked about how peopel sometimes do certain things when they are nervous and how they can develop into habits. What really worked was making special manicure dates ("you're soaking in it!") and allowing her to have a special activity (she loves tickle fights) for days when I cut her nails. She knows if she has no nails to be cut, then no tickle fight. We also made up other finger movements to do when she felt like biting her nails. I occasionally see her fingers in her mouth, and gently remind her that there are germs under her nails, but they are no longer bitten to the quick. Billi

Is stress the reason for 4-y-o's nail biting?

2001

I just found out from our daycare provider that our son, who is nearly four, is biting his nails. I am concerned that this is a sign of some stress he is experiencing, but am not sure how to proceed. Has anyone ever had this issue come up with their child? If so, what did you do? Thanks.


My 5-year old daughter has been biting her nails since she was about three, but over the last year the habit seems to have gotten worse. During that time, there haven't been any major changes in our life or routine, and according to her kindergarten teacher, she's happy, alert and involved with classmates at school, which is big on nurturing and encouraging rather than academics. My daughter bites her nails even when she's relaxing at home, watching TV, and of course, when she's in a situation in which she feels unsure or anxious, one hand or the other is always in her mouth. Sometimes she bites until a finger bleeds. She has told me repeatedly that she wants to stop -- among other reasons, because I've told her she can't have nail polish until she does. I know that reminding her or nagging is not helpful. Is anything?
My daughter, now 4, has developed the bad habit of biting her nails. Sometimes she bites so much of the nail off that her finger tips hurt. There have been no new developments in the house -birth, death, etc., and she seems to be well adjusted. She is a thumb sucker and I encourage her to suck her thumb if she feels that she needs/wants to. ANy suggestions on what to do or not to do ??
Both my 10 year old son and I habitually peel our nails. Although my habit has lessened over the years, my son's habit got so bad that he started to get infections on his fingers from tearing the skin around his nails. We have been able to control his habit using two methods. First, we have made one of his favorite activities (in his case electronic "media time", i.e., use of the VCR, non-homework related computer use, and gameboy time) conditional on his nail condition. Second, we give him small toys, like malleable erasers, wikki stix (sp?) and flexible interlocking shapes, to play with when he would otherwise peel his nails. For our son, it was very important to provide an alternative, non-destructive way of directing his need to fidget. When we just forbade him from peeling his nails without giving him another outlet, he just switched over to picking at his cuticles, lips, shoes and clothes. We have found good "fidgets" at the Therapy Shoppe on the internet, although any small, malleable items seem to work for our son. Good luck!

5-year-old has not outgrown her nailbiting habit

Nov 2005

I'm looking for advice on how to help my five year old daughter stop biting her nails. She has been biting her nails for about 2 years. I had hoped she would outgrow this habit so did not say much other than occasionally telling her that it was a bad habit as it did not look good and exposed her to lots of germs. However, I've noticed that she now seems to be biting her nails even shorter. She does have the stress of starting kindergarten and new part-time childcare. However, she seems to love both. Having two type A parents, she is a bit Type A. Any ideas? Does the yukky tasting nail polish work? Would painting her nails pretty colors regularly work? (I hate to encourage that at such a young age but she would love it.) Are there any other relaxation, distraction type techniques that work? I've checked past posts and their were surprisingly few on this topic and I would like to hear more. Thanks. mom of nailbiter


My daughter is now 11 and has stopped, again, to bite her nails. As far as I'm concerned, I couldn't stop until I was 13. My daughter sucked her thumb until she was 5 and stopped upon entering kindergarten. She started bitting her nails afterwards. Having been there myself, I knew no threat, nore rewards would work until it came from her. She stopped for a while around 9, after a manucure, I had just told her that the bitting would damage the nail polish. I've always reassured her that I knew she would stop one day and that I was there to provide support if she needed it. Then one day I read about the vibration of stones and how some have specific healing powers. I told her I had read that onyx is a ''separation'' stone and can help break bad habbits, I asked her if she wanted me to buy her and onyx bracelet. She loved the idea and hasn't removed the bracelet since, nore has she bitten her nails again. When she feels she might start again I immediatly propose to give her my full manucure treatment. It's worked pretty well so far. anonymous
I've bitten my nails since I was a child. I have stopped several times, for maximum stretches of about a year, but always start up again later eventually.

My parents tried lots of techniques to make me stop. They used the gross nail polish, but since kids eat so much with their hands anyway, pretty soon everything tasted like the nail polish and I didn't mind it anymore. They offered me rewards when I didn't bite my nails for a while, and that worked but I started pulling out hair instead. I think it's important to realize that, for many, nailbiting is at least as much tactile as it is oral. It's not so much an anxiety-related habit for me as just something to do with an idle hand while reading or working. Nowadays, the best way to keep myself from biting is with activities that REQUIRE me to use both hands at once, like knitting.

As a nailbiter, I'm sure I'm biased, but really, how awful a habit is it? If you insist that your daughter wash her hands regularly, it's not likely to be a real health hazard. Painting her nails prettily might help, but flaking polish is a huge invitation to bite. If you're worried that the biting is a symptom of stress, I'd recommend that you deal with the root cause; if it's just a concern of looks, bitten nails really aren't a big deal. I'm a well-dressed, neatly-groomed professional, and, while I often wish I had longer, prettier nails, I've never felt embarrassed by or looked down upon because of the stubs. Nailbiter


5-year-old has been biting them since she was 3

Feb 2001

My 5-year old daughter has been biting her nails since she was about three, but over the last year the habit seems to have gotten worse. During that time, there haven't been any major changes in our life or routine, and according to her kindergarten teacher, she's happy, alert and involved with classmates at school, which is big on nurturing and encouraging rather than academics. My daughter bites her nails even when she's relaxing at home, watching TV, and of course, when she's in a situation in which she feels unsure or anxious, one hand or the other is always in her mouth. Sometimes she bites until a finger bleeds. She has told me repeatedly that she wants to stop -- among other reasons, because I've told her she can't have nail polish until she does. I know that reminding her or nagging is not helpful. Is anything? Lorraine


Both my 10 year old son and I habitually peel our nails. Although my habit has lessened over the years, my son's habit got so bad that he started to get infections on his fingers from tearing the skin around his nails. We have been able to control his habit using two methods. First, we have made one of his favorite activities (in his case electronic "media time", i.e., use of the VCR, non-homework related computer use, and gameboy time) conditional on his nail condition. Second, we give him small toys, like malleable erasers, wikki stix (sp?) and flexible interlocking shapes, to play with when he would otherwise peel his nails. For our son, it was very important to provide an alternative, non-destructive way of directing his need to fidget. When we just forbade him from peeling his nails without giving him another outlet, he just switched over to picking at his cuticles, lips, shoes and clothes. We have found good "fidgets" at the Therapy Shoppe on the internet, although any small, malleable items seem to work for our son. Good luck!

8-year-old has a serious nail biting habit

July 2001

Our 8 year old daughter has a serious nail biting habit. This includes both fingernails and toenails. She has bitten her nails as long as I can recall, and most are about one-half their otherwise normal length. What to do? How does one break a habit of this sort? I recall biting my nails as a kid and one day, in about ninth grade, thinking, gee, this doesn't look so great, and never doing it again. There are no serious stresses in her life, fortunately. I don't know whether to let this go or do something about it, and have no idea what that something would be. No one else in the family shares this habit. Thanks for any words of wisdom.


I was a terrible nail biter as a child, all the way through high school. I don't know why I did it, but suddenly I just stopped. I had tried using one of those "stop biting" nail polishes, but the bad taste was only a deterrent until I got used to it. One thing that worked for me sometimes was to paint my nails a color (though once it got chipped I would usually bite them all off again). Thinking back, I wonder if it wasn't a perfectionism thing, because even now when my nails get uneven I have an almost uncontrollable urge to bite them all down to the same length. Perhaps, if money is not too much of an issue, you could take your daughter in for manicures on a regular basis...maybe if they start looking better and are well-kept, she'll lose the urge to bite them. On the other hand, some people are just biters, and maybe focusing a lot of attention on it will only serve to add stress and encourage the biting. I suppose if it doesn't bother her and you can live with it, you might just want to wait until she comes naturally to the decision to stop biting. Heather
I was a nail biter. It finally dawned on my that I bit them when I realized my nails needed trimming. This was usually during down time...riding in the car, sitting in class daydreaming, reading etc. and I did not have the implements I needed to trim them....those were at home, in my bedroom or bathroom. So my solution was to put nail clippers in my purse, or in my desk, or in my car so they were there when I needed them. Most of the time now, I do not bite my nails. But sometimes, they just are too long, and gotta go.

30+ old nail biter looking to stop

Jan 2009

I am a 37 yo nail biter making a resolution to stop. Everything that I have tried have failed, including therapy, creams, etc. Any ideas? S.


Hi, I was a major nail-biter from the time I was old enough to remember until I was in my 20's. I tried everything to stop and nothing helped. I'm talking nails bitten down to the quick and skin picked at all the time. I then learned a very simple method that worked amazingly well for me.

I put a rubber band on my wrist, and when I found myself biting or picking, I snapped it. You have to snap it hard enough to hurt at least a little. Within three or four days my nail biting was cut down to almost nothing. Every so often I find myself relapsing and then I put the rubber band back on for a few days.

Hope this helps,
Former Biter


I have a problem with biting my nails sometimes and have for much of my life.

What I have found to work for me is to go get manicures.

There is also a product that you can buy at the drug store. I think it's called no bite or something like that. It is a clear nail polish that has a bitter taste so when you stick your finger in your mouth you will be reminded.

I sometimes fall back on my nail biting ways, but the manicures are a very relaxing way for me to get my hands back in order. If I really go off on a bad binge, which hasn't happened in a long time, it may take going for a manicure every week for a few weeks. You'll be amazed how quickly your hands start looking good when they get through with you.

I'm a guy, and I love it.

That's my advice. Good luck. former/sometime nailbiter


Adult Nail Biter wants to stop

March 2003

I have been a nail biter my entire life. I have tried EVERYTHING to stop - manicures, that ''bad tasting stuff'', even acrylic nails - which I can successful bite as well. I am at my wits end. I hate what my hands look like, I hate the pain I cause myself and I hate what I am doing to my body. I am hoping that somebody has a suggestion as to what to do now. Would acupuncture help? I'm open to anything and hoping for some recommendations. Biting Away


This worked for me - but maybe you are not as vain as I am. Let's see. It can't hurt, right? I was a serious nail biter all my life - bloody cuticles, the whole deal. As a young adult I was told by someone whom I really cared for that I would be a pretty woman if it weren't for my hands. That did it. A lifetime of pain and embarrassment ended. I have rewarded myself with regular manicures, fancy hand creams, etc - and now people compliment my hands. What a feeling. So, without ever having seen you I say to you: You would be a really attractive person if it weren't for your hands! Good Luck - you can do it! Adult Nail Biter wants to stop
I finally stopped biting my nails after 30+ years. In addition to regular manicures to keep them looking good, I tried to fixate on my nails in a positive way by rubbing lotion into them on a regular basis. I would massage the base of each nail, which I understood stimulates nail growth and was a good outlet for my nervous energy. I chewed a lot of gum, too. Been There
Maybe you should try seeing a therapist rather than trying to solve the biting issue, if all of the other products didnt work then maybe there is something else going on. Good Luck! Good Luck
Hi, I discovered that if I have about 1 mm of nail and it is filed smoothly (no snangs to pull on), I can grow my nails for a while (until I relaps and have to start again). Also, try to figure out WHEN you bite. I usually bite my nails when I read or watch TV. In that case, you can just wear cotton gloves or something else to cover your nails. I am currently managing to bite only two nails, and although it looks a little funny, it's better than nothing. Good luck, Limor.
You may not be willing to try this, but for me smoking helped, just don't go overboard with it. It replaces the hand/mouth fetish and makes your fingers taste bad. Add a coat of nail strengthener (or a manicure) to guard against breakage and give yourself a week to see results. I don't chain smoke and now only occassionally light up when sitting alone in traffic. Another thing to try is painting... clear out a room and let your imagination fly... if you use oil or latex you get the same bad taste affect as well! used to bite, then i smoked, now i paint
My two-cents on nail biting: I was also a terrible nail biter, from the time I was a small child until my early twenties. What I finally realized was that I just have trouble sitting still - so I bit while in class, watching tv, movies, etc. My solution was to keep my hands or mouth busy, by doodling, chewing gum, munching on small candies, like m&m's or skittles. I am now at a point that I become aware of having my hands near my face right away, and can stop the behavior. I still have trouble sitting still, and see the same tendency in my daughter. Kristen

Therapy for stopping my nailbiting?

Nov 2005

I am another lifelong adult nailbiter who has had very limited success in stopping for any length of time. The posts on this topic from two-plus years ago are not helpful to me. Has anyone had any success with hypnosis or some other alternative therapy? Other ideas beyond the usual (manicures, distraction, positive visualization, etc.)? Still hoping for a cure


Nailbiting can be a symptom of pica, eating non-food items, usually traced to a mineral deficiency. An evaluation of what minerals may be lacking in your diet could help. Also, many people use nailbiting as a means to reduce stress. If this is you, then stress reduction techniques, nutritional support, and some adaptogenic herbs may help you. Nori Hudson
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