New Study Reveals Nail-Biting Isn’t a Nervous Habit but a Sign of a Particular Personality Type

When we think of people who bite their nails, we probably imagine that they’re anxious people, maybe even someone who has been medically diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. This is just an assumption, of course, based on the impression many of us perceive when we see a nail-biter. To the outside observer, the action seems like a nervous tic that you’d see someone do when they’re overwhelmed.

But science has shown us that there’s a lot more to this frowned upon bad habit. One particular trait has been recently linked to nail-biters, one that you might not be expecting.

Biting your nails isn’t something particularly dangerous to your health. Yes, if bites are left open and untreated they could contract infections, but ultimately it’s the social stress that makes nail-biting seem “bad”. Studies have found that 20-30% of the population, mainly women, chronically bite their nails. This can cause negative self-esteem issues and nervousness, as biters often are embarrassed to shake hands or display their nails in any way.

Needless to say, the habit is addictive and very difficult to stop. The sensation of biting nails has been shown to have a calming effect on the nervous system, making it a physical outlet for mental anxiety. So in a way, our original impression of nail-biters is correct; they tend to be nervous people who suffer from anxiety or a stressful lifestyle, and the habit calms them down. But this is only part of what drives nail-biters.

The list of why people bite is a long one, and it naturally varies from case to case. It can be a learned habit from a parent or sibling, a means of staying alert when bored, something that’s genetically inherited, or even a way of causing self-harm. And the most recent drive to be added? The need to be perfect.

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