Couldn't find what you looking for?

TRY OUR SEARCH!

I have noticed a significant change in behavior in my teenage daughter. It looks like she is under a lot of stress at work (but she won't talk to me about it), and I noticed that all of a sudden she is starting to bite her nails, whatever else she is doing - at the dinner table, while watching tv and so on. She never did this when she was younger, so I am worried. But I find it hard to get anything out of her, at all. 

Could this compulsive nail biting be related to either depression or anxiety disorder? 

What would you recommend I do now?

Loading...

Hello,

Nail biting is a terrible thing. It often shows a tendency to depression or nervousness. I know that my big sister, when she was small, started to bite her nails. And my dad said he would put nasty mustard on there to stop it. He actually did put some gooey stuff on her nails and she accidentally bit them anyway. It turned out that he put peanut butter on there.

However, this did give her such a shock that she stopped biting her nails. It took a little while. But it seemed to work.

But in a teenager this is probably a silly idea. But it is a nice anecdote. :)
Reply

Loading...

Yes, anxiety can lead to numerous different kinds of "anxious tics", habits that sufferers engage in over and over again with little control and that are immensely habit forming. Nail biting is one of the most common of these anxious tics. Compulsive and persistent nail biting can also lead to infections and a great deal of pain, so tackling it is wise. 

Your problem is a lot bigger than the nail biting alone, though. This is just a symptom. I am not sure what to suggest in this situation, because it's up to your daughter to decide that she is ready to talk about her problems and/or get counseling. I do wish you the best of luck. 

Reply

Loading...

Nail biting can be caused by depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and a whole host of other mental health issues. It can also just be a very bad habit, one caused by boredom or in people who have brittle nails caused by not having nail clippers accessible and then getting into the habit of biting.

For the nail biting, since your daughter is a teen, I'd suggest you get her regular professional manicures, maybe go together and enjoy the pampering time? When your nails are nicely manicured, you're less likely to butcher them with biting.

If she does have anxiety she will need help for that though.
Reply

Loading...

Compulsive nail biting could even be considered a form of self harm, no different to cutting or pulling your hair out. 

Many people like to have something to do with their hands, something to fidget with, when they are stressed and anxious, and your nails are of course always there. They make an easy target. This is probably why nail biting is such a common problem among people suffering from stress or anxiety. 

Addressing the underlying problem, which can mean therapy, will likely cause it to stop, although breaking the habit make require a conscious effort as well. 

Reply

Loading...

Yeah, definitely. It's one of the signs of anxiety or depression. There's many others too. Nail biting is in a way "better" than eating disorders to name one, 'cause it's not something a person can hide and when others become aware something's wrong, it's easier to get help. The not talking thing could be another sign all in itself, but I remember being a teen and I also know the more parents push, the less likely they are to talk, you know? I'd go read some books about that. My sister has a book called how to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk. There's a teen version of that too... perhaps it might help you?

Reply

Loading...

I am overwhelmed by the response I have received! I have to admit that I was hoping for responses indicating that compulsive nail biting was merely a bad habit that all sorts of people acquire and that it was not necessarily related to anxiety disorder or depression at all, but now I am worried...

Like I said, it is hard to get anything out of my daughter. I have no idea how she would react to a suggestion that she tries therapy, but I know it would not be good! The best idea I can come up with for now is to have another trusted adult talk with her and see if they can get anything out of her. Maybe if that person (her uncle is a good one) could suggest counseling, she would be more open to the idea?
Reply

Loading...

Sorry, but you can't tell whether someone has an anxiety disorder by knowing that they bite their nails alone. Anxiety disorders come with long diagnostic checklists where you have to meet a certain number of those criteria to get a diagnosis. Nail biting isn't on any of those as far as I have ever seen. It could be a symptom, but it could also not be. If you think your child needs help then the best thing you can do is make an appointment with a counselor and then they can see whether there is anxiety or other things going on.
Reply

Loading...

I read somewhere that 45% of all teenagers bite their nails. Surely not all of them are suffering from anxiety or depression?

Sure, have a talk with your doctor about this. That cannot do any harm. But it's not necessary to make everything pathological in your head when it may be perfectly normal (which, it being normal does not mean there's nothing that should be done about it either of course).

The other stuff could be signs of a problem, whether a mental health problem or bullying or relationship trouble, or it might just be normal teen stuff again. Hard to know.
Reply

Loading...

User avatar
Celebrity
478 posts
This is true and does bear repeating. Nailbiting is a sign of some kind of distress, but people can be stressed without having a pathological disorder that can be diagnosed and treated with medication or therapy.

In this situation, I think I would look into mindfulness meditation and perhaps yoga. Both of these help relieve general stress and may help get rid of a habit like nailbiting as well, because with mindfulness, you are concentrating on everything in a positive way.

I would not immediately recommend or seek therapy. Life can just be complex without something being a mental illness.

Rosie
Reply

Loading...