Do you bite your nails all the time? Maybe once in awhile? While I only tend to bite my nails when they get longer than I want them to be, others are constantly gnawing their nails down the nub, sometimes to the point of bleeding and pain.
It used to be thought that anxiety and nervousness were the root causes of this type of habit (and it may be for some people), but new research has found that for many other folks, it’s actually a sign of an entirely different personality trait–perfectionism.
“We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviors may be perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform tasks at a normal pace. They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals,” says Dr. Kieron O’Connor, author of the study.
What does that mean?
Essentially, folks who bite at their nails do not do so as a means to soothe jittery nerves, they do so because they’ve got a lot of unused energy and need to do something to let it out. Otherwise, they get angry.
Of the study’s 48 participants, half of them exhibited “body-focused repetitive behaviors” such as nail-biting. Those who bit at their fingernails were identified by researchers as being organizational perfectionists, or folks who have personality types that tend more towards being organized and busy at all times.
What does this mean for nail-biters?
People who bite their nails have become one of the largest groups that psychotherapists have had to focus on in the modern era. And while those who bite their nails might not think that their habit is detrimental, it actually can be if they’re not careful.
Prolonged nail-biting can cause infections, weaken one’s teeth, and reshape the nails that are being bitten.
Sarah Roberts, co-author of the study, says, “these findings suggest that individuals suffering from body-focused repetitive behaviors could benefit from treatments designed to reduce frustration and boredom and to modify perfectionist beliefs.”
A few signs that your nail-biting stems from perfectionism
- You are incredibly hard on yourself
- You become angry or upset when you feel you have not achieved your goals
- You are often unsatisfied even when you have, by all means, achieved your goals
- You hesitate to start things until you feel the moment is absolutely perfect to do so
- You often view things with an “all or nothing” perspective
If this sounds like you, don’t fret. Nail-biting is a habit that you can stop doing if you so wish. It will just take a bit of time and discipline! Watch the video below to learn more about how to kick the habit.