The Internet at the Speed of Thought

Here’s What Nail Biting Actually Says About Your Personality

at 5:15 pm | By

A bad habit with big implications

As far back as I can remember, the longest I’ve gone without biting my nails is probably a few months at most. You think I’d stop sooner, what with just about everybody around me telling me it’s a gross and nasty habit, but their criticisms never really bothered me.

Do you bite your nails? Why do you do it? Do you bite them on purpose, or does it happen when you’re not paying attention?

If you’re a nail biter, you’ve probably been told that you do it because you’re nervous, anxious, or frustrated. But do you actually believe that? I know that I’m calm most of the time, and in fact I often catch myself biting my nails unconsciously, during relaxing moments while reading or watching a movie.

As it turns out, nail biting and other similar habits may not be indicators of anxiety at all, at least not in the way you might think about it. In fact, if this study is right, maybe being a nail biter isn’t a bad thing at all!

bite nails fingernails


Here’s what it really means!

Anxious About What?

nervous woman biting nails

Credit: Shutterstock/Carlos Caetano

When people tell you that biting your nails is a sign of anxiety, it’s mutually understood to be a negative thing. But did either of you ever stop to think what you might be anxious about? What if we told you that it wasn’t anxiety in the normal sense with unhealthy repercussions in your life, but rather a preoccupation with making sure you’re being your best self and that everything around you is going smoothly?

That’s right: You might just be a perfectionist.

The Study

womans mouth biting nails

Credit: Shutterstock/ BLACKDAY

Dr. Kieron O’Conor of the University of Montreal studies OCD and “body-focused repetitive behaviors” such as nail biting, and he thinks that it all comes down to perfectionism.

“We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviors may be perfectionistic,” he said, “meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform tasks at a normal pace. They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals. They also experience greater levels of boredom.”

Here’s why: