The nail-biting behavior is very commonly perceived as "nervousness or anxiety". However, a new study tell us that nail-biting may be a sign of something entirely different.
The Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry explains that nail-biting could be a symptom of perfectionism.
"We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviors may be perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform tasks at a normal pace. They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals,” says one of the authors of the research, Dr. Kieron O’Connor.
Nail-bitting isn't a body command to mediate nervousness. Biting the nails is an indicator of frustration.
The study investigated 48 participants. To test their organizational behavior and emotional regulation, all individuals filled out specific surveys. Results revealed that 50% of the group had repetitive behaviors like nail-biting.
Identified as being organizational perfectionists, the nail-biters showed a personality trait marked by a tendency to overwork themselves. They'd often become frustrated by low productivity or lack of work. Additionally, this group performed better at making and following accurate plans.
Biting the nails and similar repetitive behaviors can be an unconscious way of releasing repressed energy.
The Impacts of the Study
The nail-biting habit might seem almost unoffensive, but in a long-term it can be seriously damaging.
WebMD says that nail-biting can originate infections, weaken the teeth, and permanently deform nail growth.
These prognostics, along with how universal this behavior is, have made nail-biting one of the leading conditions psychotherapists need to help their clients overcome.
“These findings suggest that individuals suffering from body-focused repetitive behaviors could benefit from treatments designed to reduce frustration and boredom and to modify perfectionist beliefs,” says Sarah Roberts.
Do you bite your nails? Are you a perfectionist?
Pay attention to these signs:
• You are very hard on yourself
• You think in "all-or-nothing" terms; you see things as black or white
• You get upset when you fail to achieve a goal
• Even when you do achieve a goal, you're still not satisfied
• You can't start something until the "perfect moment" - which may never arrive
If you want to learn how to curb your nail-biting repetitive behavior, check out the video below.
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