The anxiety can cause many different types of tics and habits not desired. One of the most common that anxious people experience is constant nail biting . Nail biting is a strange way to react to anxiety and stress, but it is perhaps one of the most common ways that both children and adults seem to act when they feel tension. The onicofagia occurs when a person constantly puts the nail near the mouth and uses the teethto peel or bite off the top later. Some people do not even realize that they are biting their nails until it is pointed out, indicating that it almost never occurs consciously.


What is onychophagia?

Onychophagia is the habit that occurs compulsively in a person who bites their nails , which, over time, can lead to different physical problems in both nails and teeth, ranging from infections to deformations in the fingers.


What is onychophagia?

Experts in medicine and psychology are now taking a closer look at this type of addiction and have decided to change its classification from a simple habit to a complete obsessive-compulsive disorder . Onychophagia or the act of constant nail biting is a behavior that involves a broad spectrum . It basically consists of placing the finger in the mouth in such a way that there is contact between a nail and one or more teeth. This could cause fingernails and fingernails to bleed or damage. Sometimes this act results in physical harm and is considered self – mutilating behavior.


Characteristics of onychophagia

Among the main characteristics that we can find in onychophagia we can mention the following:

  • It is one of the most common nervous disorders .
  • It can occur in both children and adults .
  • It has negative consequences for aesthetics , nails and teeth .
  • So usually usually it ends when children enter the preteen .
  • It is a way that sufferers have to reduce anxiety .

Causes of onychophagia

Onychophagia begins mildly and at an early age . There are different and numerous controversies about the causes that produce onychophagia. While some studies linked the habit to behavior problems and anxiety , others did not believe it, scientists consider that this is not the case. Anxiety in children with onychophagia is not a characteristic feature; it is more of a state . Oral habits, including nail biting, have an environmental etiology and are risk factors for the development of malocclusion , especially in older preschool children. Inadequate motor activity is assumedfor age can be a cause of onychophagia. Although it was suggested that onychophagia was used to reduce anxiety, many recent studies do not support this theory. Nail biting usually occurs as a result of boredom or working in difficult places that generate anxiety , in the case of adults. People with onychophagia do not bite their nails when they are involved in social interactions. It is important to rule out obsessive-compulsive disorders as a cause of onychophagia.


In general , people who suffer from it tend to bite their ten nails equally, to the same degree. Nail biting causes the cuticle to break, which can lead to microbial and some viral infections . Saliva can also affect the skin. On many occasions the fingers can become seriously deformed because when the nails are bitten, the destruction of the nail bed occurs .


The diagnosis is based on the observation of the child’s or adult’s behavior of biting and biting their nails. It usually begins at an early age , even when the child is in its mother’s womb. The different factors that can influence the problem, such as insomnia , depression , isolation and eating disorders should be evaluated . It is also important to establish whether there is an underlying obsessive compulsive disorder.


Depending on whether there is a problem with depression , then antidepressants may be prescribed . In the case of patients suffering from obsessive disorders , treatment with medications is indicated to help them control their obsession. The antipsychotics in these cases are indicated. The vitamin B , is an assistant in the treatment, as it has been proven to reduce anxiety nail biting, as it increases serotonin in the brain. The therapy of behavior is most often used either with or without medication. Changing habits and controlling stimuli are key points to beating the disease.


Some of the most common consequences are:

  • Subungual hemorrhages.
  • Chronic paronychia or acute inflammation of the cellular tissue of the fingers.
  • Deterioration of the nail plate.
  • Ingested nails can damage the pharynx and inflame it.
  • Bronchial infections can occur.
  • Germ transport.

Onychophagia in children

In children, it is more classified as a bad habit rather than a disease. It may be because the child is going through a moment of anxiety or stress . Although often the onicofagia disappears with age, sometimes the growth of nails and teeth affected by this reason.

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