Nailers have to look for another stress valve
Chewing fingernails is common. According to estimates, up to 40 percent of children and around ten percent of adults nibble on their nails again and again. While chewing is mostly harmless, it can also be a serious problem. Those affected can take countermeasures.
Stress is a cause of fingernail chewing
Adults chew on their fingernails, but the phenomenon is much more common among children. Stress is usually the reason that the fingers automatically move to the mouth and nibble on them. Sometimes, however, there are also banal causes such as “boredom”, as social worker Gritli Bertram reported to “Heilpraxisnet”. However, parents should not respond to chewing their nails with punishments and sanctions. "Rather, it is important to research the causes and understand the children," says Bertram.
Compulsive behavior - but mostly harmless
The results of nail biting not only look ugly, they also ensure that pathogens have an easier time of it. In a message from the dpa news agency, experts report interesting facts about the topic.
Prof. Peter Falkai from the German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatic Medicine and Neurology (DGPPN) explains that nail biting is compulsive behavior or a disturbance of impulse control, but is usually harmless.
However, if nail biting becomes stronger or more frequent, it becomes critical. "Or when people chew nails so intensely and so grievously that injuries occur, for example of the skin," says Falkai, who is also director of the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the University Hospital in Munich. "Then it's often a symptom of an illness."
Up to 40 percent of children chew their nails
As the doctor and graduate psychologist Harald Tegtmeyer from Lindau explains in the dpa report, it is not easy to distinguish between a bad but harmless habit and the expression of a mental disorder.
According to the spokesman for the Committee for Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy at the Professional Association of Pediatricians (BVKJ), nail buffs are in numerous societies, especially in younger years: "It is estimated that 30 to 40 percent of children and 10 percent of adults are affected."
Do not put children under pressure
Children often get used to chewing their nails again after a few months or a few years: “In puberty, you take more care of yourself and perceive nail-biting differently. It gets embarrassing, also from the look, ”says Tegtmeyer.
Parents can support their offspring in weaning, for example by subtly pointing them out to biting nails in the appropriate situation.
According to Gritli Bertram, children should not be put under pressure. House arrest or a television ban are completely wrong approaches and put children in further stressful situations. A reward system is better: “There is a small amount of attention every week without chewing your fingernails. This can be an ice cream or a joint visit to the cinema ”, the social worker told“ Heilpraxisnet ”.
Entry point for fungi and bacteria
Nibbled off nails and broken cuticles are not just a cosmetic problem. "They also serve as an entry point for fungi and bacteria and thus promote inflammation," explains dermatologist Marion Moers-Carpi from the professional association of German dermatologists in the dpa report.
The nail-forming cells can be irreversibly damaged in the long term, so that the nail only grows deformed - typical are pronounced longitudinal grooves.
Small changes can help
It is best to refrain from chewing. To do this, it is important to first find out in which situations the fingers go into the mouth at all. According to Falkai, this usually happens when the stress level rises.
Then the question has to be answered: "What can I do to prevent stress?" In some cases, small changes are enough; for example, to present the clock if you always come to the last pusher.
Some people use bitter varnishes or plasters around their fingertips when weaning. Falkai does not consider this to be sensible as the only method. According to the expert, it is more important to investigate the causes of nail biting and to take specific countermeasures.
According to Falkai, it is sometimes easier not to get used to chewing your nails from one hundred to zero, but to try to reduce the frequency first. (ad)