Onychophagia: Everything You Need to Know About This Strange Phenomenon.

Onychophagia is a lesser-known phenomenon that occurs when someone compulsively bites their nails. Though it may seem like a minor, harmless habit, it can actually have some severe consequences. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment of onychophagia. We’ll also answer some common questions about this condition. So if you’re curious to learn more, keep reading!

Is onychophagia life-threatening?

Onychophagia, or nail biting, is not typically considered a life-threatening condition. However, it can lead to several serious problems, including infection, damage to the teeth and gums, and emotional distress. If you are concerned about your nail biting habit, we recommend talking to a doctor or therapist who can help you develop strategies to overcome it.

What Is Onychophagia?

Onychophagia is formally defined as the compulsive urge to bite or chew on one’s fingernails. It is considered a type of body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB). BFRBs are characterized by a person excessively touching, picking, biting, or grooming themselves, resulting in physical damage to the body. This condition refers explicitly to the nails and can lead to deformities of the nails, increased risk of infection, and damage to the surrounding skin. The cause of this condition is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to anxiety and stress. Treatment typically involves behavioral therapy and/or medication.

Most Common Symptoms of Onychophagia:

Onychophagia, more commonly known as nail biting, is one of the most common nervous habits. It is estimated that 50% of the population have engaged in nail biting at some point in their lives. While it is more common in children, adults can also suffer from this condition. The symptoms of onychophagia include: 

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Boredom
  • Hunger
  • Nervousness
  • Sleep deprivation

While most people occasionally engage in nail biting and do not experience any negative consequences, some develop a more severe problem with onychophagia. For these individuals, nail biting can interfere with daily activities and cause physical damage to the nails and surrounding skin. If you think you may have a problem with onychophagia, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. Treatments available can help you break the habit and regain control of your life.

What Are the Harmful Effects of Onychophagia?

Onychophagia, also known as nail biting, is a common habit that is often considered harmless. However, there are several harmful effects associated with this behavior. For one, nail biting can damage the nails and cuticles. This damage can leave the nails susceptible to infection. In addition, nail biting can also spread bacteria and viruses from the mouth to the fingers. This can cause several health problems, including colds, influenza, and even hepatitis. Finally, nail biting can also cause teeth to become misaligned. If you are concerned about the harmful effects of compulsive nail biting, it is best to seek help from a healthcare professional.

Treatment Options for Onychophagia:

Onychophagia is a common habit that can often be hard to break. Some potential treatment options are available, though what works best may vary from person to person. Some common approaches include cognitive-behavioral therapy, hypnosis, and medication. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps with onychophagia by teaching people new ways to think about and deal with their nail biting behavior. It can help you understand why you bite your nails, how it affects your life, and how to stop.

Talk to your doctor or mental health professional if you’re interested in trying cognitive-behavioral therapy for this condition. They can refer you to a therapist specializing in this type of therapy.


There are a few ways that hypnosis can help with nail biting. First, hypnosis can help increase self-awareness and provide insight into the thoughts and emotions triggering the behavior. Secondly, hypnosis can help to create new, more positive behaviors to replace the nail biting habit. And finally, hypnosis can help to calm and relax the mind and body, which may help reduce stress and anxiety contributing to the problem.


Many medications can be used to help treat compulsive nail biting. Antidepressants such as fluoxetine and sertraline are often prescribed, as they can help to reduce anxiety and impulsivity. Naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, can also be effective in treating onychophagia by reducing the pleasure associated with nail biting.


If you are experiencing any symptoms associated with onychophagia, it is essential to consult a doctor. Although this condition is not typically harmful, it can indicate other health problems. If left untreated, onychophagia can also lead to permanent nail damage. Thanks for reading our guide. We hope this information will help you if you struggle with this condition.

Last Updated on December 15, 2023 by Lucas Berg


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