Nail biting, otherwise known as onychophagia, is a bad habit and psychological disorder often associated with anxiety and stress. Which begs the question, what do nail-biters do in the time of COVID? One of the most stressful and unusual times in recent history. When you are told not to touch your face, to avoid as many surfaces as possible to avoid contamination, what do you do if you are a nail-biter?
Well, the good news is that if you are the cautious kind, you may be forced to quit. Others may find this time even more stressful given their inability to access their comforting habit, in which case, it would be a good time to consider quitting.
There have been a number of tried and tested techniques. There is of course the nail biting nail varnish with its bitter taste. This makes chewing your nails terribly bitter. Others have been encouraged to take care of their nails, to make them look better with weekly manicures. The thought process being that if they look good you will be less likely to chew them. The truth however is that nail-biting is an unconscious act, so you may not even realize that you have ruined your great manicure till it’s too late.
Others have gone the emotional route, identifying the triggers that lead to nail-biting, and then substituting the nail-biting with another action like squeezing a stress-ball or counting to 20.
Hypnosis has often also been associated with addictive behaviors such as nail-biting and even smoking. The hypnosis app ‘Stop Nail Biting ’ promises to put an end to nail-biting and the unsightly finger nails that come with it.
The hypnotherapy recordings on the app will help re-programme your unconscious mind and help you to deal with your stress and anxiety in a different way, and break your unwanted and unhygienic nail-biting habit.
So how does it work.. Hypnotherapy works by getting the person into a super-relaxed state, where you are more likely to be open to suggestion. The reason behind nail-biting for most is stress, so attempting to break a habit using willpower alone is not for the faint-hearted. When a person is stressed, the brain reaches for an instant connection between a bad habit and feeling great shortly thereafter. These bad habits can extend to eyelash and hair pulling and even physical harm.
Hypnotherapy allows you to access a state where you feel safe. It starts off with a number of meditation exercises, followed by an unusual action; one is told to imagine the habit in some kind of bodily form, and you are told to speak to it, and to tell it what it is doing to you.
It does sound odd, but it has in fact worked for many. By separating it, and looking at it allows one to address the habit head on. Questioning whether or not the action of nail-biting does in fact make you feel good or whether it was just an issue of control. Detaching the habit from you as a person, allows you to see it as an option, not an ingrained habit that has been for the longest time, non-negotiable. One is then encouraged to walk through an imaginary version of life, without the habit.
If you don’t substitute the action though, you are left with a gaping hole. Which is why people are encouraged to use their hands to do something else, as mentioned before, squeeze a stress ball or even scribble down some feelings once the triggers arise.
Like with everything, the hypnotherapy is a learned habit, and needs to be practiced. People that have experienced and succeeded at hypnotherapy say that it takes 4-6 sessions over a two month period to have incorporated the new habit and delete the old from the mind. Definitely worth a try don’t you think?