Nail biting: Does it cause long-term damage?

Although unsanitary, nail biting typically causes no long-term damage to your nails.

Your nails are formed near where your U-shaped cuticles begin (nail bed). As long as nail biting doesn’t damage this area, your nails will continue to grow even if they’re bitten off on a regular basis. Nail biting can worsen some existing conditions of the nail bed, such as infection of the skin around the nail bed (paronychia) or warts around the nail bed. In addition, you can pass bacteria or viruses from your nails and fingers to your mouth by biting your nails, making it more likely you’ll catch a cold or other infection.

Most nail biting is merely a bad habit that most people eventually break. But constant, severe nail biting can be a sign of anxiety or compulsive behavior. In such cases, you may consider consulting your doctor or a mental health professional for further evaluation. Treatment may include behavioral therapy to help you stop biting your nails.

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