February 03, 2003
“I’ve tried to stop a million times,” says Steve of his nail biting habit. His new bride, Lisa, can’t take it anymore, and she turns to Dr. Phil for help.
“It’s just a nervous habit,” says Dr. Phil. “It often starts for one reason and then continues for another. In other words, it may have started at a time in your life when you really were nervous … so you got rid of the nervous energy by nibbling on something.” But then, even when the source of the anxiety has gone away, the nail biting continues out of habit.
Dr. Phil offers Steve two ideas to think about for breaking his oral fixation:
1) Response Prevention.
There are things you can do so you physically can’t bite your nails. At least while you’re at home, for example, try wearing gloves. “If you eat through the gloves, you need to call me back,” jokes Dr. Phil.
2) You don’t break habits. You replace one behavior with a new behavior.
If biting your nails is helping you suppress your nerves, try putting something in its place. For example, take a deep breath or try other relaxation exercises, hum, listen to music, or tap your foot.
“Once you break the cycle, honestly, it can go away,” says Dr. Phil.