The biting off of fingernails is called onychophagy. The phenomenon occurs in both humans and animals. Those affected bite off their fingernails with their teeth and often also the surrounding skin.
The extent of the damage is very different and individual. If the damage is minor, often only the protruding parts of the nails are chewed off without causing other injuries. If the chewing goes beyond this limit, the nail bed and the skin underneath are also injured.
Often the fingertips are also bitten off. Such injuries can go so far that small bleedings occur and later form flat scars on the fingertips. Since the affected persons often suffer a lot from their chewed nails, there are several approaches for a therapy. You will find further information in the following article.
Causes of chewed fingernails
Chewing your fingernails usually has a psychological cause. It is important to distinguish between children and adults. Small children often bite their nails out of curiosity and boredom.
In this case, no psychological illness must have been assumed. Regular fingernail biting can be thought of as ADHD or another behavioural disorder. Overanxious children also tend to bite their fingernails in difficult situations.
In adults, onychophagia often occurs in connection with neuroses and other obsessive-compulsive disorders. However, this does not mean that all adults with this habit are automatically mentally ill. A nervous or anxious personality can also be considered as a cause of chewing in adults. The chewing of fingernails is used as a valve to get rid of excess energy or to mask unpleasant feelings. In addition, fingernail biting is increasingly observed in psychotic patients.
The treatment of chewed fingernails
The therapy of chewed-off fingernails consists of two pillars: on the one hand the patient has to give up nail biting and on the other hand the regeneration and healing of the fingernails can be promoted. In the following you will find corresponding therapy approaches.
Pain due to chewed fingernails
Biting off fingernails can sometimes be very painful. Pulsating pain is typical, especially when there is inflammation of the affected finger (panaritium). Even severely shortened nails cause pain, as the sensitive nail bed is exposed and constantly irritated.
However, the regrowth of the nails is not painful in itself. Only accompanying inflammation, which is not uncommon if the nails are still biting, as well as injuries caused by biting, cause pain. If the pain is pronounced, anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen or diclofenac can help to alleviate the discomfort.
Weaning the nail-biting
When solving problems, the fight against the causes is at the forefront. As long as the fingernails are chewed further and further, the nails cannot regenerate. The consequences are chronically inflamed nails and scars on the fingertips.
In order to prevent this, there are different nail polishes for affected persons, which should prevent the chewing. The classic is a bad tasting, clear nail polish that should be applied regularly to the fingernails. When chewing, one notices the bad taste again and again, so that a kind of training against chewing takes place.
So the bad taste should serve as a deterrent against nail biting. Unfortunately, this method is a bit cumbersome, because the nail polish has to be renewed regularly. It is also easy to wash off and can hinder eating with your hands.
As a supplement to getting used to it, the regeneration and healing of the affected nails can be promoted. Thus there are varnishes that promote nail growth and additionally harden the nail. However, this varnish only works if the nails are not further chewed during this time and are given time to regenerate.
Another alternative is to go to a nail studio. There the unsightly fingernails can be beautified and if necessary strengthened with artificial nails. Artificial nails are very popular among people with chewed-off fingernails, as they fulfil two important functions at the same time.
On the one hand, they protect the nail underneath from further chewing and thus give it time to heal. On the other hand, artificial nails hide the often unsightly looking natural nails. There are different types of artificial nails.
The most common are artificial nails made of plastic. However, other variants, such as those made of gel nails, are becoming more common. The wearing of artificial nails is uncomplicated and is rarely perceived as annoying.
A disadvantage of artificial nails is that they have to be maintained regularly. After a certain time the glue can become loose or individual parts break off. This leads to more frequent visits to the nail studio, which can be quite expensive.
Alternatively, with a little practice you can glue on artificial nails yourself. The necessary material can be purchased either in retail stores or on the Internet. However, with artificial nails it should be noted that these can also be chewed. Therefore weaning is also important with this solution.