If you’d rather not send the people around you a message of “Hey, I’ve got issues!” then you might want to kick your nail-biting habit. Turns out nail-biting can be a sign of emotional imbalance.

While it’s super common, nail-biting or onychophagia, as experts refer to it is a kind of “tell” that you’re freaked out or frazzled, and one that can spur other mouth-related stress behaviors like chewing pencils, biting your lips, or smoking.

That same review identifies a fourstage sequence common to anxious nail-biters: After raising the hand to the face or mouth and holding it there for a few seconds, the fingers are quickly tapped against the front teeth. Next, a series of quick spasmodic bitings occur, followed by visual inspection or feeling the newly bitten nails with your other

If that sequence sounds familiar, your habit may be an easy way to assess when you’re stressed out. While that’s sort of helpful symptoms of stress can be silent or hard to identify biting your nails can also lead to some truly gross or harmful health issues. If you need more reasons to quit biting your nails, this list has you covered.


If you bite off too big a piece, you can expose the delicate skin beneath your nail, leaving

it exposed to any bacteria or pathogens in your mouth and there are plenty of them.

“All our mouths are full of bacteria, so you
can easily infect yourself,”




One of the most common forms of infection is called paronychia, and it can cause swelling, redness, pain, and pus-filled lumps. That infection can stick around for weeks at a time, shows a study in the journal American Family Physician.

Dr. Friedman says biting your cuticles the narrow crescents of skin that rim the bottom of your nail is the most common cause of paronychia.


Your saliva’s chemical composition allows it to break down fats and other food molecules. While that aids your digestion, it can also damage and inflame the skin of your fingertips if you’re constantly jamming them in your mouth. For the same reason, licking your lips can cause them to become chapped; your saliva is actually corroding the skin,


Your fingernails contain a generative layer called the “matrix,” which is sort of like the bed from which all your nail cells flower.

Biting or biting-related infections can damage that matrix, which could lead to chronic ingrown nails or nail deformities.


Pick at a wart, and its contagious material can get onto or under your nails. Touch your face or mouth with those contaminated nails, and you could end up with warts on your face or neck.


Well, that’s not what it’s called, but that’s the idea. The actual condition is called “herpetic whitlow.”

If you have oral herpes and roughly 40 percent of adults do you can infect your fingers with the virus. That could result in fever, but usually the first symptoms are painful burning and tingling in your infected fingertips. After a week or two, you could also develop liquid- or blood-filled sores that will hang around (along with the pain) for another two weeks.