Cause and treatment of nail biting in children

Nail biting is one of the most common problems in most children so do not miss it so that your child quits this ugly habit.



Treatment of nail biting in children

Many parents become upset, annoyed, and angry when they see their child chewing on their nails, constantly reminding them, “We are concerned about your health and we do not want you to have ugly fingers in the future.” Most of them believe that children who chew their nails are suffering from nervousness and anxiety and try to reduce their anxiety and apprehension by doing so.

nail biting

What are the symptoms of nail biting in children?

A child with worried eyes, without realizing it, is chewing on his nails! This image is not unfamiliar to parents because many of them face this problem. An insignificant subject that gradually grows to fill your whole mind with “why” and “what should I do”.
Eliminate health issues such as contaminants that may accumulate under the nails and the possibility of disease through them; It is more annoying to see a child biting their nails because it conveys their anxiety and nervousness to you. Perhaps, for this reason, the behavior of children soon becomes a major problem for parents and even causes resentment and anger toward them.

Adolescents chew their nails more than other nails

Dr. Elham Rouhi, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, says about this issue:

Chewing or cleaning under the nails is the habit of many people, from children to adults. Among the neurological habits, nail biting is the most common, which if left untreated may continue until adolescence and adulthood. Nail biting may start at an early age (even one-year-old) and increase to 12 years of age. It is estimated that about one-third of elementary school children, half of the adolescents, and even a quarter of high school students chew their nails.

Another less noticeable behavior is frequent brushing under the nails with your teeth or other nails, which is not as obvious as chewing nails. Usually, all nails are chewed in the same proportion, but it is important to pay attention to the number of nails involved, touching around the nail, chewing to the bottom of the nail, or just the head in the analysis of the severity of the problem. In severe cases, the damage to the nails is serious and may lead to infection of the fingers and nail bed.

nail biting

Ways to treat nail biting in children

Nail-biting is usually exacerbated in anxious situations and failures, and sometimes it is just a habit that occurs in certain places such as in front of the TV or the like. The most severe types of nail biting are seen in some severely mentally retarded children or people with schizophrenia, but some people have the disorder without any mental disorder, simply because of a neurological habit.

Medication is not necessary; Correct your behavior!

This problem can be treated in two ways: 1. Behavioral and actions of others, 2. Medication.

Medication is only given in very severe cases and in children over 7 years of age with anti-anxiety drugs such as fluoxetine or haloperidol. Treatment takes place. You need to see a child psychiatrist find out if your child needs medication and how much and what medications to take.

In this article, we are talking more about the first method of treatment, which refers to the behavior and actions of others in dealing with the child, and in many cases, this problem can be controlled and treated by observing a number of points, and there is no need to use medication. . Regarding the behavioral methods of nail biting treatment, there are several recommendations that we will explain to you separately in the treatment steps;

Step # 1- Discovering Your Purpose

In the first stage, advice is given to the parents of these children; Contains:

1. Use ignoring behavior as much as possible. Avoid talking about them or avoiding talking to a child who is biting his nails, so that they do not comment on them. When the child is doing it, do not hug him or even approach him.

2. Do not punish the child.

3. Provide a safe environment for the child to eliminate his need for comfort in this way. Certainly, stressful homes, parental conflicts and quarrels in front of children, corporal punishment, and repeated child abuse for various reasons will play a very important role in creating a stressful and insecure environment for the child.

4. Keep the child entertained, especially during sleep (for example, with a toy) to divert the mind from this habit to another activity.

Step 2: What to do with the child?

In the second stage, training is needed for the child, including:


1. Make a list of times and places where he chews nails with the help of the child and family.

2. Encourage the child to be aware of his appearance when chewing nails. For example, look at yourself in the mirror while chewing your nails.


3. Provide another occupation for the child’s hand. For example, give him a small, portable object to take with him wherever he wants. Like a rubber ball, a piece of dough, or … if necessary, chew on the nail, encourage him to play with the object. Although nail replacements are not recommended, sometimes a plastic straw can be used to replace your baby’s oral needs.

4. Make changes in situations related to this habit. For example, he can only watch TV if his hands are busy.

5. A competitive action can also be taught to the child. For example, when he wants to chew his nails, he punches his hands, holds the handles of the chair tightly for three minutes, and suddenly relaxes his hand.

In addition, parents need to regularly grip the child’s nails with nail clippers and scrape, to monitor and encourage the child’s progress. Praise her long nails for their beauty. Sometimes a lovely gift such as nail polish or beautiful gloves or a ring and a beautiful nail clipper or a magnifying glass is also recommended to check the condition of the nails.

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