The chewing of fingernails is called with the technical term Onychophagia designated. The phenomenon occurs in both humans and animals. Sufferers bite off their fingernails and often the surrounding skin with their teeth. The extent of the damage is very different and individual. If it is less pronounced, often only the protruding nail parts are chewed off without causing other injuries. If the chewing goes beyond this limit, the nail bed and the underlying skin are also injured. The fingertips are also often bitten off. Such injuries can go so far that there is small bleeding and later extensive scars form on the fingertips.
Since those affected often suffer greatly from their chewed nails, there are several approaches for therapy. Further information can be found in the following article.
Causes of chewed fingernails
The chewing of the fingernails usually has a psychological cause. It is important to differentiate between children and adults. Young children often bite their nails out of curiosity and boredom. In this case, no mental illness has to be assumed. If you bite your fingernails regularly, you may have ADHD or another behavioral disorder. Over-anxious children also tend to chew their fingernails in difficult situations.
In adults, the Onychophagia often associated with neuroses and other obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, that does not mean that all adults with this habit are automatically mentally ill. Even in adults, a nervous or anxious personality can be considered a cause of chewing. The chewing of the fingernails is used as a valve to get rid of excess energy or to cover up unpleasant feelings. In addition, fingernail biting is increasingly observed in psychotic patients.
Treatment of chewed fingernails
The treatment of chewed fingernails consists of two pillars: on the one hand, the patient has to stop biting their nails and, on the other hand, the regeneration and healing of the fingernails can be promoted. Corresponding therapeutic approaches are presented below.
Pain from chewed fingernails
Chewing your fingernails can be very painful. When it comes to inflammation of the affected finger (panaritium), pulsating pain is typical. Even severely shortened nails lead to pain, as the sensitive nail bed is exposed and is constantly irritated. However, nail regrowth is not in itself painful. Only accompanying inflammations, which are not uncommon if you continue to bite your nails, and injuries caused by chewing cause pain. If the pain is pronounced, anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as ibuprofen or diclofenac can help alleviate the symptoms.
Weaning off nail biting
Fighting the causes is at the forefront of problem solving. As long as the fingernails are chewed more and more, the nails cannot regenerate. The consequences are chronically inflamed nails and scars on the fingertips.
To prevent this, there are various nail varnishes for affected people that are supposed to prevent chewing. The classic is a bad-tasting, clear nail polish that should be applied regularly to the fingernails. When chewing, you notice the bad taste again and again, so that a kind of training against chewing takes place. The bad taste should serve as a deterrent against chewing nails. Unfortunately, this method is a bit cumbersome as the paintwork has to be renewed regularly. It's also easy to wash off and can interfere with eating with your hands.
Healing of the chipped nails
As a supplement to weaning, the regeneration and healing of the affected nails can be promoted. There are varnishes that promote nail growth and additionally harden the nail. This varnish only works if the nails are not chewed any further during this time and have time to regenerate.
Another alternative is going to a nail salon. There the unsightly fingernails can be embellished and reinforced with artificial nails if necessary.
Artificial nails are very popular with people with chewed fingernails, as they fulfill 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, the artificial nails hide the often unsightly-looking natural nails.
There are different types of artificial nails. Artificial nails made of plastic are the most common. However, other variants, such as gel nails, are becoming more common.
Wearing artificial nails is uncomplicated and is rarely found to be bothersome. One disadvantage of artificial nails is that they require regular maintenance. After a certain time, the glue can become loose or individual parts break off. This leads to more frequent visits to the nail salon, which can be quite expensive under certain circumstances.
Alternatively, with a little practice, you can glue on artificial nails yourself. The necessary material can either be purchased in retail stores or on the Internet. However, it should be noted that artificial nails can also be chewed off. Therefore, weaning is also important with this solution.
Consequences of nail biting
The Consequences of nail biting are very complex and can take on unimagined dimensions. Probably the most obvious consequences of chewing are the resulting Injuries to the fingers. Affected people bleed from their fingertips and often have scars. In addition, the nail bed is often attacked and therefore prone to bacterial infections or Fungal infections.
In addition to the physical consequences, the psychological consequences of nail biting should not be underestimated. A large part of interpersonal communication occurs through gestures with the hands. Those affected are ashamed of their nails and withdraw socially. In addition are manicured hands Nowadays important for various professional groups, for example the hairdresser or the cook. Choosing a career can therefore be restricted if your fingernails are always chewed off.
In people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, nail biting can take several hours a day. Likewise, different everyday activities chronically injured fingers are not followed up. These include, for example, preparing food with your bare hands or cleaning with detergents. Hobbies, such as playing the guitar, cannot be pursued due to severely chewed fingernails.
What should be considered when regrowing fingernails?
The chewing of fingernails is often an expression of compulsive behavior, which can have not only physical but also emotional consequences for the person concerned. Depending on how well the nails are chewed, there are various special features that should be taken into account when the nails grow back.
In principle, the best chance for good nail growth is to stop nail biting early. At permanent chewing of the nails can be a permanent shortening and deformation of Nail such as Damage to the nail bed occur. Successful nail growth can only be achieved through a conscious decision not to chew the nails. To this end, the causes of nail biting, such as stress or other psychological stress, often have to be eliminated or at least improved. Psychotherapeutic procedures can help reduce these factors. Local measures, such as applying bitter-tasting nail polishes or bandages and gloves, can also help give the nails time and rest to grow. It is important to continue to like the consequences of nail biting Fungal infection or Inflammation to treat, as these can also hinder growth. Disinfecting ointments and creams help to protect against infections and to care for the damaged nails and the surrounding skin.