No matter how old I get I cannot stop the habit of biting my fingernails. I have tried everything over the years: fake nails, polish, nasty tasting polish, and different products that all just ended up in the trash. My parents even tried reward techniques; my mom finds the habit really gross saying she would pay me to stop. When that did not work they even tried the opposite approach insulting my nails, telling me people did not find it attractive. Nothing worked. I would even get to a point where my nails had grown out and without thinking about it I would just bite them down.
In an article about nail biting it talks about how nail biting is over looked and how experts are classifying it as an addiction/mental disorder, an addiction that is even harder to get past than cigarettes. Decisions have been made to change the classification of nail biting from a simple habit to instead will be a form of OCD according to The American Psychiatric Association and will be in the upcoming issue of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
When compared to other disorders that are characterized within OCD such as repetitive hand washing and hair pulling, so nail biting fits right in with those. What people need to understand though is that even with this new classification it is a disorder that is not impairing, therefore not very serious medically. Not everyone who bites their nails even should classify oneself to the level of OCD, nail biting becomes an issue when it is destructive meaning when one is impairing their hands or are getting repeated infections from biting.
During my research I actually found a correlation between nail biting and the pinworms we discussed at the beginning of the semester. Pinworms are actually not a dirty thing, anyone that has pinworms can spread them on anything they touch: literally anything from couches, to blankets, to towels, ext. No matter how clean a child, children most commonly get pinworms, is the eggs live up to two weeks so if they catch one under their fingernails and stick that finger in their mouth, they will get pinworms. The unfortunate thing about pinworms is that they are even contagious to oneself, if one is also a nail biter (or even just puts ones finger in his/her mouth) one can give themselves pinworm all over again. If a child was getting pinworms over and over again from nail biting this becomes an example of nail biting being destructive.
TLC's show My Strange Addiction featured someone who is a nail biter and has been for 35 years. They bite their nails without the willpower to stop even after blood is drawn; they keep biting through the pain. That episode was in 2011 but actually is not the first time TLC has touched on nail biting in 2009 TLC printed an article in InTouch reporting on a study done by Dr. Jon Grant on the effectiveness of N-Acetyl Cysteine when used to treat skin picking and nail biting. After using the product Dr. Grant reported that 56% of the tested subjects had prominent reduction of symptoms. This was a double-blind placebo-controlled trial of NAC that was funded by a donor-funded Research Grant Program within TLC.
NAC is an amino acid, which affects the levels of glutamate within the brain, therefore making it easier for people to control unwanted behaviors. This knowledge is why Dr. Grant chose to test NAC on nail biting for he believes that glutamate modulators have the capability to help with disorders, addictions, and compulsions. This study produced results in favor of Dr. Grant's hypothesis (56% improvement of subjects on NAC, 16% improvement on subjects on placebo), which in this field in science is actually rather exciting. This study is actually among the first studies that focus on glutamate's effect on compulsive behaviors as opposed to serotonin. The hope is that from this study doors will open allowing them to expand with a larger subject pool and high dosages.
People like myself (though I am not as bad as the person on the TLC episode) are struggling to stop biting their nails. A study where 44% still do not see significant effects from the drug does not make me want to jump up and go buy the product. Clearly though 56% of people having an effect shows that there is a hope and a reason for more research.