Nail biting

14th June 2016

Nail biting

I used to bite my nails constantly. I would bite them until they would bleed and be sore for days. In fact my nails were pretty much non-existent.

And be prepared for the next thing I admit to because it’s a gross as hell.

When I was younger I would bite my toe nails. Prior to the operation I had on my hip when I was 10 I was super flexible and I could get my toes to my mouth. Then I stopped biting them because I could no longer reach them.

When I was in plaster my toe nails grew for the first time and my mum gave me my very first pedicure. I loved how they looked but I could only dream of my finger nails looking that good.

Being unable to bite my toe nails helped me to stop, and there was a number of times in my life when I was unable to bite my finger nails too. For instance, when I had the operation on my hip when I was 10 I was full of cannulas and attached to all sorts of drips. I was as a high as a kite and as a result I didn’t bite my nails. But once I was off the morphine I got right back into biting.

Another instance was when I had some teeth out when I was about 13 years old in preparation for having my braces on. I had to have an operation because they needed to remove a tooth that was pushing down through the roof of my mouth, and my surgeon said he could fix my tongue tie at the same time. As a result my mouth was incredibly swollen for over a week and I couldn’t eat properly for days.

I recovered, of course, but then I returned to biting my nails again.

As I got older people started to make comments about disgusting my nails looked. Obviously, it hurt to hear that, especially as I knew they looked awful, but it was a habit I just couldn’t seem to break. I even tried that nail polish that has a terrible taste to it, but it didn’t stop me.

I think the final straw came when I was in college. I got a job working in a shop and I often worked on the jewellery stand. I would have to open tiny fastenings on bracelets and necklaces, but sometimes my nails were so sore and short I couldn’t do it. I mean, how lame is it having to ask the customer to put on their own jewellery because you can’t help. It was embarrassing.

I knew I wanted nice nails, so I went out and bought nice nail polish (that cracking nail polish that was all the rage at the time). I went cold turkey and it was so difficult. 18 years of nail biting causes serious damage to your nails, so even though I wasn’t biting them they still wouldn’t grow.

I started wearing clear nail polish like the Sally Hansen Advanced Hard As Nails polish. This particular polish helps to strengthen your nails, and with it being clear it meant I could wear it to work. I still use it now.

It took years but my nails eventually started to grow. They’ve never been super long (as you can see in the top picture) as they will break a lot, but at least they’re no longer so short that they bleed. Last year I had my first ever professional manicure and they looked so good!

I now know that I have anxiety, so it’s more than likely that I bit my nails because of how I was feeling. And when I look back at the times when my nails were at their worse it was always at times when I was nervous about something.

I can’t deny it, I still bite my nails. Sometimes I don’t even know I’m doing it. I still have anxiety and it still my nervous habit. But they’re a lot better than they once were.

I don’t know why I’ve wrote this post. I don’t know what the moral of the story is.

I guess I just wanted to share my story because I know there are lots of people out there who bite their nails or who have nervous/bad habits. And I want to show that it is impossible to break a habit, even if you’ve been doing it for your entire life.

Do you have a bad/nervous habit? Are you a nail biter?

Enjoyed this post? Why not share it...


  1. I think I remember you mentioning the toe-nail biting. It is a bit odd but I don’t find it that gross for some reason. I think it is because as children, a lot of us (me included) were able to reach their toes with their mouth and sucked on their toes. :P So to me it just sounds like you had a bit of a childhood habit that lasted for longer.

    I used to bite my nails but I was blessed with pretty good nails and took good care of them so they were often too hard to bite. I had to keep cutting mine short for playing the piano, which I hated because I wanted to paint and grow mine.

    Given recent photos of your painted nails, I don’t think they look bad now! I am glad you managed to stop biting your nails. It’s interesting that working in the store with the jewellery was sort of a turning point for you. I have heard of many people who made a big change after an embarrassing or scary event. My friend quit smoking when one day she was smoking on a windy day and her hair caught fire. It wasn’t that bad but she said the burning smell completely turned her off.

    The only weird habit I had was trichotillomania – pulling my hair out. I don’t know why I did it but I just wanted to do it all the time. A lot. I had very long hair and played with it often, twisting it between my fingers. I would detect ‘imperfect’ hairs and pull them out from the root. I kept doing this until I got bald patches on top of my head, my friends started to notice it since I was a lot shorter than them. I don’t know what made me stop but my mum would realise there was all this hair in the bin and she was horrified and told me to stop. I tried to wear gloves and wear a hat but I still did it somehow. I was definitely depressed around the time so maybe I was more fidgety than usual? I am still fidgety and I still play with my hair but eventually I stopped pulling it out. I can’t remember how I stopped.

    I moved on to braiding my hair obsessively, then unbraiding it and braiding it again. It was around the time I had my first job out of my masters degree, I remember always having my hands braiding my hair for some reason. I don’t remember how that stopped either! I still have a habit of sniffing my hair. It is very embarrassing because I have seen myself in photos fidgeting with my hair and usually my head is cocked to one side while doing so. The habit has probably died down over the years though. You have just alerted me to my habits again and I think I should pay more attention to stopping haha.

    • Holly

      Oh my goodness, I can’t believe that happened to your friend! I think my mum and my uncle decided to quit smoking after seeing the damaging affects it had on my grandad. They’ve both been smoke free for over two years and I’m so proud of them!

      I play with my hair a lot when I’m nervous, which is why I usually tie it up if I have an interview or something like that.

  2. I’ve never had this habit of nail-biting but my sister has and I’ve seen the effects of it on her, like you said bleeding fingers and just really short non-existent nails. She too did it because it was a nervous habit. My sister managed to break the habit by painting her nails because she hates the taste of nail varnish so it sort of put her off it, I guess she still does it but at least, like you, it’s not as bad anymore!

    My nervous habit would be that I talk really fast, like extremely fast when I’m nervous that sometimes I forget to breathe and then after that I just start trying to get as much air in me as possible and it’s just really embarrassing haha! But ever since I started working in more public sectors, I’ve become less nervous about meeting new people and doing new things that are out of my comfort zone!

    • Holly

      I’m embarrassed to say I would bite my nails even with the nail polish on. Disgusting! I even bit them when I had braces on, which is suppose to be impossible.

      I also have a nervous habit of talking really fast, and I always end up messing up my words. I’m getting better with practice.

  3. I used to bite my nails. It was so hard to give up that habit. The only way I stopped was to get an expensive treatment like getting acrylic nails on me. The price and the mere idea of chewing on some disgusting chemicals pretty much stopped me, and I think I’ve been nail biting-free for a couple of years now. I still bite the heck out of my cuticles and such, though.

    My nervous habit comes through fidgeting. Especially with my hands. In a way, if I don’t keep my hands occupied, I actually feel more stressed!

  4. I feel you so hard on this! I used to bite my nails too, for YEARS. I would get them down so short that my closest friends were grossed out. I definitely didn’t start because of anxiety (I actually started because of Olive Oyl in Popeye, hahaha) but it definitely worsened as I got older because of it, couple with depression and boredom. I’ve stopped for the most part, owing mostly to expensive nail polish ($10+) and a small amount of determination. I did chew down four of my nails (both thumbs and middle fingers) yesterday, however, after I got an email from work that caused me a lot of stress and irritation. Now they look gross. :(

    • Holly

      There’s definitely a link between when I have I no work to do and when my nails are the shortest.

      I found that buying expensive nail polish has really helped me!

      When my nails look gross and short it gives me such an incentive to stop again. I pop on the expensive nail polish and try to resist looking at them.

  5. Kya

    I think it is really wonderful that you have been able to really resist biting your nails and improve on your habit. It would have been a big struggle. I do bit my nails. I have anxiety as well and I do a number of things for random reasons that I am trying to stop. It can be so difficult. Sometimes you don’t realise you are doing it and other times you want to do it. Brains are random. xD

    • Holly

      Yep, brains are random. I’m hoping I can convince myself not to touch them for the next few days because I want nice nails for my holiday!

  6. I used to bite my nails too, and it took me ages before I managed to stop. I mean, I still chew them sometimes out of nervousness. My nails are always breaking now, because of it. I can attest to Sally Hansen, though – their nail polish is amazing!

    • Holly

      I get so frustrated when my nails break. Sometimes it takes so much willpower not to bite them, so when they break on their own and question why I bothered stopping in the first place!

  7. Oh my.. I’ve never had this problem but it sure does look painful.

    Pretty nail polishes by the way!

  8. Amy

    I’ve never bitten my nails, but I do pulls the skin off around them. I wish I could stop, but I do it without being aware of it most of the time. I think it’s just a nervous thing. But there are way worse habits, anyway!

    Glad you’ve managed to stop biting your nails as much! Hope you can keep it up!

    • Holly

      Sometimes when I bite my nails the skin around it becomes quite broken and it’s incredibly painful.

  9. I don’t think the toe-nail biting habit is gross. It’s odd but habits are always odd, aren’t they? I mean, what seems normal to you may be odd to others who don’t have it. I never had any nail biting habit since I was a kid, however, my habit includes smelling my fingers. yes, isn’t that gross too? Lol. I remember how my classmates used to look at me like I’m an abnormal creature because I have that habit. it’s slightly getting better now though since I’m so conscious about what other people might think.

    I only bite my nails when there’s, uh…excess skin / nail. I can’t quite explain it lol but I think you get me :P it bothers me so much when that happens that I just want to pluck it!

    oh my, I just started using braces around…May this year and thank god my mouth wasn’t swollen or anything. Didn’t get a lot of mouth ulcers either. some people said it’s probably because i’m using the ceramic braces and not the usual metal one.

    once in my life, i had this vision of wanting to have pretty nails too. my cousin introduced me to nail art and once, i thought it was cute. but then i gave up. i just don’t have the patience for nail polish! and nail polishes chip so fast on my nails! plus my nails aren’t that strong either so i’m like ah whatever, i don’t really trim my nails the way they do when you’re having a manicure. as long as they’re short, i’m okay. so yea, i don’t care about my nails, let alone wear nail polishes despite some of the really adorable colors that exist. besides, my toe nails are hella ugly lol i have nails that grow inwards sometimes and that’s really painful but meh, i don’t really care about trimming them neatly either. all i care is just get the ingrown nail out, even if it causes my toe to bleed sometimes. ouch.

    i can totally relate with how anxiety can cause bad habit to resurface. i’m basically in the same condition, except when i get panic attacks, i end up forgetting to breathe so i either have hitched breath or i just sit there looking surprised and not being able to move.