Why do people bite their nails? People seem to be doing it primarily while contemplating something, or during problem-solving tasks. They seem to understand it is a bad habit, and sometimes they seem to try to active avoid it, but keep on doing it nonetheless so it seems. Why does this happen?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Cognitive Sciences. Self-help questions are discouraged here and I have attempted to re-word your question by deleting any reference to self. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Jun 29, 2015 at 11:18

1 Answer 1


Nail-biting is considered a parafunctional habit. A parafunctional habit is the habitual exercise of a body part in a way that isn't the way that that part was intended to be used. Other common parafunctional habits include bruxism (grinding of teeth), hair-pulling, and picking at skin.

Nobody knows what causes these habits. Possible physical or psychological causes may include emotions (aggression, anxiety, stress, tension), hyperactivity, complications from other disorders (such as obsessive-compulsive disorder), or as a coping or focus mechanism, similar to how babies and young children find it soothing to suck on their thumbs.


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