Nail-biting or onychophagia, a personality trait more common than you’d think.
Most of us will have a crooked nail or two that needs fixing now and then. Popular statistics claim that if you belong to approximately 44% percent of adolescents or 5-29% of adults, you won’t reach for the nail-clipper in the drawer. Instead, you would resort to your own trusty tooth and jaw to perform the well-needed chiseling, which would imply that you have been afflicted with onychophagia, a technical term for nail-biting.
It mainly arises out of an uncontrollable, compulsive urge.
I still remember when I dug through my cuticles with almost motorized jaws when going to school and back. No, I wasn’t tensed but felt a compulsive urge that just could not be ignored. And that is exactly what the scientists of today attribute the trait to – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). New studies state that nail-biting is a Body-Focused Repetitive Disorder that arises from certain people obsessed with getting everything right, i.e., not out of mere anxiety.
Research suggests that people bite nails in stressful as well as boring activities.
Research conducted by University of Montreal professor Kieron O’Connor subjected 48 individuals to different stimuli, namely stressful, relaxing and boring exercises. Except for the relaxing exercise, which involved the screening of a short movie of waves, people who had the disorders indulged in pathological grooming, including nail-biting, hair-pulling, skin-pulling, etc. Thus boredom and frustration, which are easily elicited by an underlying perfectionist personality, were the root cause of such behavior. That’s right; Nail-biters are perfectionists.
Though it is mildly destructive behavior, nail-biting barely lifts the needle on the scale of human life.
Even though it may sound fancy and might even compel one to partake in nail-biting to convince themselves that they’re part of the elite few, the habit isn’t all about sunshine. Professor Kieron O’Connor, who conducted the study, concluded that nail-biting is a means to satisfy the perfectionist urge to do something instead of nothing. Like all OCD-afflicted individuals, nail-biters apparently indulge in the habit not because the compulsion is wanted but because of the inherent fleeting thought that something bad might happen to them if they don’t chew away at their cuticles at that precise moment.
New findings conclude that the obsessive compulsion of nail-biting and perfectionism go hand-in-hand.
These new findings highlight the novel perception that pathological grooming habits, which include nail-biting, hair-pulling, and so on, may help those with compulsive habits develop better management techniques and avoid such situations that may trigger engagement in these behaviors. If you are one of the many who are particularly annoyed and grief-stricken with the habit, doctors suggest cognitive therapy, wherein patients are made to learn and think differently when tension builds to stop the urge before it starts.
Not much to worry about, then!
Blandly put, there is nothing devastatingly wrong about you if you are a keen and dedicated nail-biter. It merely signifies that you strive for perfectionism in whatever situation. Needless to say, you’ve got yourself an apt reply to fling at people who happen to criticize your habit.