About 4 years ago, I decided enough was enough: I need to figure out my own path to kicking the habit. Somehow, my plan worked, and, minus a very small number of slip-ups over the past 4 years, I have refrained from biting my nails. Since I was asked by a co-worker how I stopped obsessively nail-biting, I decided to write about how I did it as well. This is how I stopped myself from biting my nails. Everyone is going to be different, but at least these tips are more realistic than the magazine's.
1) Until you're back on the wagon, keep them short.
I think that's the one major flaw in every nail-biting article, ever. They talk about not biting your nails with the specific intent of having nice, long nails. Here's the problem: the longer they are, the more I wanted to bite them off. I could go a week or two without biting my nails, only to cave and gleefully (all too gleefully) go at my long nails.
In the beginning, I bought five or six packages of the small Revlon nail files (go simple and get the no-frills, disposal nail files. The wide, fancy kind always disappoint me. You're spending money on the nail file pattern and the glitter, not the nail-filing abilities). I had a nail file in every room of my apartment, in every purse, backpack, clutch, jacket pocket… I kept a few at my desk and left the extras in a jar on my nightstand.
The goal was clear: transfer neurotic nail biting into neurotic nail filing. Sometimes transference is the only way things can get accomplished (just ask any teacher in regards to redirection). So, whenever I was tempted to gnaw away, I whipped out my nearest nail file and went at my nails until there was no nail to bite.
2) Treat nail biting like quitting smoking and go on the Nail-orette Patch.
Even with neurotically nail-filing, I still wanted to chew my nails to the quick. I consolidated this desire to just my thumb nails. This worked even better than the nail filing alone. If I could focus on biting just those two thumb nails, as long as I had a nail file on hand to fix my other nails, I could go without biting my finger nails indefinitely.
When I felt I was ready, I narrowed it down to just my right thumbnail. The only drawback was that I had to neurotically file down my left thumbnail (since I was essentially at square one with that nail). I must admit: I haven't completely rid myself of biting my right thumbnail. It's hard, especially since my right thumbnail has a weird dent in the middle, which is as good as a neon sign yelling, "BITE ME!" I can go upwards of a month without biting it but, given the stressful nature of my job, I find myself biting it like its the route cause of all my anxiety.
3) Don't get your nails done.
Every article always talks about getting your nails done so you wouldn't possibly want to ruin them. Anyone with obsessive-compulsive behaviors (and most people who nail-bite usually have other behaviors that mirror OCD) knows how bullshit that sentiment is. I've had my nails done perfectly before, only to pick at the nail polish at every chance. This lead to cracked, weakened nails, which are prime candidates for nail-biting. The only time I didn't chip away at my nails was when I got them done for my wedding, but even then, I picked at them mercilessly the second I returned from my honeymoon.
I say, at the absolute maximum, put one layer of clear nail polish on your nails. And keep nail polish remover on hand if you find yourself picking at it.
I know it's contradictory to have my main picture be that of my fingernails with an semi-elaborate nail polish pattern on them, but I wanted to kill two birds with one stone and show my Tetris nail design as well as the length of my nails (which ironically, is hidden with the Tetris design).
4) Round out the corners when you file.
I don't know why, but, for me, the sharp corners are the most enticing portions of my fingernails. So, when I felt comfortable having longer nails, I made sure to file nice rounded edges.
Basically, figure out what it is exactly about your nails that tempts you to bite them and find a way to get rid of it.
5) Never ever ever ever ever EVER put your nails in your mouth, for WHATEVER reason.
This is the nail-biting equivalent "You trust me, right? Just lend me $20. I promise I'll only spend it on groceries. Not booze." My nails might be dirty. So my brain tricks me, telling me that I'm just trying to clean my nails. This leads to scraping at my nails, which leads to breaking the nails. And, since the nail is already broken…
The same for chipped nails. I once thought I could just bite out a broken corner. But that's just not how it works. Biting away a chipped corner turns into biting the whole nail. This is also why you should always have a nail file on hand. There is never an excuse to have your teeth touch your nails.
Next week, I'll talk about how I got those Tetris designs on my nails =)