Nail biting; etiology, consequences and management

Iran J Med Sci. 2011 Jun;36(2):73-9.


Nail biting (NB) is a common, but unresolved, problem in psychiatry, psychology, medicine and dentistry. While it seems that NB is a simple behavior that can be stopped easily, many of the children with NB have already tried to stop it, but they have not been successful. The frustrations due to failed attempt involve others such as parents and siblings. The present review aims at providing an overview of prevalence, co-morbidities, education and counseling, and management for NB. Overall, the reviewed literatures suggest that co-morbidities of psychiatric disorders and other stereotypic behaviors in clinical sample of children with NB is more than 80%, and more than half of the parents suffer from psychiatric disorders mainly depression. Treatment of NB, however, is not as easy as it seems. The management of NB is much more complicated than just focusing on stopping it. Nail biting cannot be managed without considering its co-morbidities, antecedents and consequences. It might be concluded form the reviewed literature that children with NB, parents, siblings, and teachers should be educated about what to do and what not to do about NB. Punishment is not effective. Moreover, clinical randomized controlled trials are required to make available evidence-based behavioral and pharmacologic treatment protocols.

Keywords: Nail biting; etiology; outcomes; prevalence; treatment.