Nail biting is usually a persistent bad habit, or as a symptom of anxiety or stress. It is a behaviour that sometime occurs unconsciously, so that the patient is not even fully aware of the times when they put their fingers into their mouth and bite their nails. Others are aware of what they are doing, but feel compelled to continue, using snags or tears in the nail as an excuse to bite them.
All behaviours and habits are maintained at an unconscious level. Therefore it is in this region that the changes need to be made. Hypnosis is a useful tool in making changes to the unconscious mind and to unconscious activity. This is because during hypnosis, the conscious mind (which we use for thinking during our normal conscious and awakened state) is not as alert. This means that suggestions can be given and they are more readily accepted as the conscious mind will not filter or analyse the suggestions as much as it would during normal awakened consciousness.
Some people continue to bite their nails way past the nail bed, causing the fingers to become sore and bleed. But even those who do not have such an extreme habit could be doing themselves some harm by biting their nails. Many bacteria are found under nails, especially on unwashed hand, in some cases a bacteria called Staphylococcus can be found. This causes illnesses such as impetigo and toxic shock.
Nail biting can also cause damage to teeth, despite nails being made of keratin, the same substance that hair is made of, teeth can become damaged when they bang together quickly and with the force it takes to bite through a nail.
The most effective treatment I have used previously to help a patient stop nail biting, is hypnotherapy with suggestions for feeling nauseous each time the fingers enter the mouth. This offers not only a preventative measure for those who bite their nails, but also a sure way of bringing the behaviour into the patients conscious awareness. This gives the patient the opportunity to have choice about whether to continue with the behaviour or not.
It is also important to offer the client some alternatives to alleviate stress or tension if this is a contributing factor in the behaviour. Teaching self hypnosis or hakalau, can offer an alternative behaviour that induces a deep state of relaxation.
“Stress management has definitely improved, I don’t feel as tense.I think I’m am cured! My nails are starting to grow.”
By Gemma Bailey
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