I don’t live a hard life. My problems can be loosely summed up as “first world”, or specifically as “where shall I keep all my basses? (especially as one doesn’t have a headstock and I can’t hang it on the wall.)”
So, believe me I don’t mean it lightly when I say stopping biting my nails is the hardest thing I have ever done!
I received a PhD with no corrections, I’ve spent entire nights in the lab, I’ve moved half way across the world by myself, and been mugged at gun point. But all of that was more fun than stopping myself chewing on myself.
It bloody sucks!
I’m getting married in 3 months, and I’ve been told that people like to take photos of your hand for some dumb reason. Also, “[t]here aren’t many habits that hold a worse reputation than nail biting.” Rude hey?
Although, it does mention that nail biters may be healthier. The other week “I F***ing Love Science” shared an article from the journal Pediatrics, suggesting that kids who bite their nails and suck their thumbs have fewer allergies. As a kid I did both of those things, and have managed to kick one of them habits. Probably later than I care to admit…
This report looked at the “hygiene hypothesis” that exposing yourself to a bag of nasties as child improved your immune system in the long run. Specifically by preventing your body from going into overdrive, and causing allergic reactions. Basically that is all your body does when suffering an allergic reaction. At some point your body has decided it hates something, so from now on whenever you interact with this thing you react like a jerk and kick off.
So, what did this report find? Well a third of kiddywinks bite their nail or suck their thumbs, and more girls than boys do both. And more interestingly, that doing this has no effect on the rate of asthma or hayfever. I get hayfever, but not asthma (despite an overzealous doctor deciding I did for about a fortnight.), so it’s no surprise to me that biting my nails doesn’t effect that.
However, biting nails can stop “atopic sensitization.” So what’s atopic sensitization I hear you scream into the abyss. Roughly it’s a hypersensitization in response to skin-prick tests, commonly resulting in eczema or similar skin ailments. You’ve probably seen on TV when House or some other doctor pricks patients’ with various allergens to see what the person is allergic to. In this study they used house dust mite, grass, cat, dog, horse, kapok, wool and a bunch of fungi.
Although they haven’t really examined individual allergens they showed that only 38% of those with an “oral habit” (their words not mine) showed atopic sensitization compared to nearly half of those with no habit. Interestingly, the results are somewhat additive. 49% of kids with no oral habits have atopic sensitization, whilst 40% of those with one habit do. If you suck your thumb and bite your nails only 31% of folks have atopic sensitization.
So, what does this suggest in reality? Can I use this as an excuse to keep biting my nails?
Well, no. Kind of. The study is really short. Also, it showed that biting your nails before the age of 13 can offer long term protection, so I guess I can stop doing it now. Also, I have eczema and an allergic to cats, so thanks a lot shoving-dirty-fingers-in-my-mouth you’ve done nothing for me!
There’s also some evidence that biting nails is a form of OCD, where you become hyper-aware of your appearance. Although it is linked to skin biting and trichotillomania (pulling your hair out) so it’s clearly not improving your appearance. And considering my version of “dressing up” is just sticking a checkered shirt over whatever band T shirt I have on, I don’t think I can use that excuse either.
Also, there’s this Buzzfeed article full of hyperbole to scare you off.
And my fiancée will probably beat me up if I ruin her wedding photos. So left hand I will leave you alone!
Today’s quote is from William S. Burrough.
I am in no way claiming that giving up heroin is as hard as me stopping biting my nails…