There is nothing "bad" about a child
who chews his or her nails.
Nail-Biting: Parenting Strategies
Can't help wondering...
what you're wondering about?
A little neighborhood friend, younger than the child pictured here, bites her nails.
She chews her fingers.
She bites herself on the inner wrist.
I hurt so much for her, knowing the inner pain that makes her need to hurt herself for relief.
One would think with the abuse and neglect in her life, she'd have no need to hurt herself, too.
It doesn't work that way. I know.
I've been a nail-biter since earliest childhood. I'm certainly not bragging about that…but I no longer feel ashamed about it either. Oh, I hated biting my nails, hated myself for not being able to stop, hated the way my hands looked and most of all I hated the expressions of disgust and pity from others.
For what it's worth, I'd bet there never has been a nail-biter who wanted to be one.
I certainly didn't want to be one for many reasons.
I guess you could say I've been self-injuring since I was a baby. My mother loved to tell the story of finding me covered with blood one day. I'd found a package of razor blades, opened them and was happily chewing on them. (No comment on the lack of supervision or whatever…)
When I was a child my father often slapped me across the face for biting my nails… as well as for other maddening behaviors such as my hair hanging in my face, the look on my face, the way I was standing or just about anything it seemed to me. Other people ridiculed, mocked and humiliated me as their ways of getting me to stop. Still others bought that nasty tasting stuff or offered manicure kits, or other rewards as incentives to stop the nail-biting. The school nurse even gave a written permission slip for me to suck life-savors in class.
As you can guess, I didn't just nibble the nails. No. I ripped them off until my fingers bled and the pain was excruciating. Eventually I took to hiding pins in many places for easy access. I used them to dig under the bed of the nail in order to make a place "to get a grip" and rip off a piece of nail.
Eventually I found just digging my flesh with a pin was a good-nuf substitute sometimes. At 15 I played with the razor blades again. By then I was seriously intent on killing myself. I failed but that's another story.
Now I know more about nail-biting and other forms of self-injury. In brief, self-injury, self-harm, self-mutilation, and so forth, include "carving, scratching, branding, marking, picking and pulling skin and hair, burning/abrasions, cutting, biting, head banging, bruising, hitting, excessive body piercing and tattooing."
Self-injurers "tend to have been abused as children." In one way or another, abused children "discover that a serious jolt to the body, like that produced by self-injury, can make intolerable feelings go away temporarily."
The resulting behaviors, including chronic nail-biting, seen as "common symptoms of stress" are variously described as coping mechanisms, "tensional outlets," and a "quick and easy way of defusing great physical or psychological tension."
The reasons for the behaviors include "trauma reenactment, bargaining and magical thinking (if I hurt myself, then the bad thing I am fearing will be prevented), protecting other people, and self-control."
Finally, in severe cases, self injury may be viewed as a "gift of survival," possibly the "most integrative and self-preserving choice from a very limited field of options." Self-injury may be the one thing standing between the person and committing suicide to escape from physical or psychological pain too great for him or her to live with.
For More Information:
Nail Biting: Causes and Consequences
Self-Injury of the Nails and Hands
Nail-Biting: Parenting Strategies
Wikipedia – Nail-biting
How to Protect Your Children From Self-Injury
Self Injury in Adolescents
People Who Self Mutilate
Self Mutilation & Suicide
Trauma Reenactment Syndrome
A Child is Waiting,
Take care...be aware,