Mumsnetters aren't necessarily qualified to help if your child is unwell. If you have any serious medical concerns, we would urge you to consult your GP.

Extreme nail biting

(13 Posts)
Natsku Thu 25-Feb-16 19:40:37

DD5 bites her nails, been a bit of an issue for a long time but today I noticed that its become much worse. She's bit the nails down so far there's no nail left to bite at the top so now she's biting them up from the bottom, bit hard to explain but she's kind of scraping the nail from the bottom up and its making the nails peel off from the base, one nail is almost completely off already and another one is half off.

I had been planning on ordering some of the bitter nail polish stuff but now with the nails in such a state I'm not sure its ok to put it on them as a lot of it is just raw exposed skin now. What do I do? And is this a sign of anxiety? I really feel like she's been really anxious lately, really bad separation anxiety and afraid to go to sleep and things like that. Don't know what to do with her.

ItIsHowItIsx Sun 28-Feb-16 15:37:32

I put the bitter stuff on my ds's nails when they are really raw and bloody. It is the only way I can get him to stop him eating them down to the base. I know my son has bad anxiety and stress issues. He has also developed nervous tics. The nail biting is fairly persistent, but with him definitely stress related.

ItIsHowItIsx Sun 28-Feb-16 15:40:43

Just reading this again. My ds is having major issues at school with bullying and being scapegoat for all the problems in an extremely difficult class with a teacher who can't seem to get a grip on the problems. How old is she? Can you work out what it is that is stressing her? ITs a long story, but he had the same issues 3 years ago with the bullying. He was 6 years old and didn't manage to tell us what was going on.

MyBreadIsEggy Sun 28-Feb-16 15:52:25

I did this when I was a child. Same as your DD, down to the point there was no nail left, and then I carried on until the skin was raw and bloody. It was an anxiety thing for me, stemming from abuse. I still do it now as an adult to a certain extent when I find myself feeling anxious or stressed. I did grow out of the worst of it though! My mum tried everything. She put Stop-n-grow on my nails/skin which tasted rank at first, but eventually I got used to the taste. I ended up getting a really nasty infection, from walking round with open wounds all over my fingers, which stopped me biting as intensely. Also, my dad promised me that is I stopped biting, he would take me to a proper salon and pay for me to have my nails painted with lovely nail art patterns which was a great incentive for 8 year old me - maybe that would work with your DD??

Helenluvsrob Sun 28-Feb-16 15:52:28

Can you look at different stress release strategies with them? Why are they anxious, can we fix it, if not and it doesn't have a fix can we do something else instead? In the same way as if this was self harming .

What would help them ? Headspace app is good and there must be similar mindfulness stuff for kids about. Or excercise ? You can't bite nails bouncing on a trampoline or running circuits of the park and endorphin release would be good.

They are nail biting for a reason. Learned the hard way with ds (who is now grown up ). Stopped him biting his nails and he replaced that with picking his toenails. He still has nasty ingrown toenails that need sorting.

If the nail biting is drawing blood and causing pain, maybe it is similar to stress release style self harm - and there are strategies you can find for safe alternatives to give the same result - pinging an elastic band on the inner wrist, biting lemons or using ice cubes.

MyBreadIsEggy Sun 28-Feb-16 15:55:00

Also forgot to write in my previous post, I did what Helen suggested - pinging a rubber band against the inside of my wrist when I felt the urge to bite my nails. Started doing it with a skinny hair bobble at secondary school and it worked quite well smile

Natsku Sun 28-Feb-16 20:41:32

She's 5, the only thing I think she could be anxious about is starting visits with her dad again but they seem to have been going well and she's been very happy about them.

I'm going to promise to take her to a nail salon if she stops biting them, told her about it today and she was very excited but I've promised nail polish before and she still couldn't stop biting. She doesn't seem to realise she is even doing it.

I'll try the elastic band on the wrist, maybe that will help. Right now her finger tips are covered in plasters to stop the nails coming off and she's picking at the plasters instead - giving her something else to pick at/fiddle with might work.

MyBreadIsEggy Sun 28-Feb-16 21:38:17

Nat maybe if you went and had your nails done in a salon and took her along, she would get even more excited about having her own done like a grown up when she stops biting smile
The elastic band thing gave me something else to focus on....was kind of like scratching an itch instead of straight away going for my nails!

Natsku Mon 29-Feb-16 07:25:20

Never had my nails done before, could be an experience, think I'll have to give that a go and see if it helps firm up her desire not to bite any more.

Kraggle Mon 29-Feb-16 07:30:39

I never bit as badly as it sounds your dd is doing but was and still am a nail biter. I never grew out of it and I now bite the skin around my nails as well to the point of bleeding etc. I don't even realise I'm doing it sometimes so it's a very hard habit to stop.

I have managed to stop biting twice in my life. The first when I was 8ish, my parents bribed me with a £1 coin for every nail I could grow above my fingertip. That worked well for a while.

The second time I stopped biting was for my wedding so i could have nice nails! It's such a hard habit to break it seems and I've tried everything over the years.

MyBreadIsEggy Mon 29-Feb-16 07:34:53

Hope you find something that works OP!! Makes me cringe to think how sore your poor DD's fingers must be! One of my fingers is sore today, and it's nowhere near as bad as you describe confused
Good luck smile

Believeitornot Mon 29-Feb-16 07:36:38

You need to tackle the underlying cause.

If she's worried about being alone then cut her some slack and spend time with her especially at bedtime (which can be when the fears come alive more in her head).

I speak as a former child nail biter

Natsku Mon 29-Feb-16 08:26:20

I called her nurse today to see if we can find out the underlying cause, possibly she needs to go back to the child psychologist.

I'll try spending more time with her at bedtime and see if that helps. She slept in our room last night as she was insistent that she couldn't sleep alone.

Her nails are like this now, biting them from the bottom so they've come partly loose from the nail bed.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now