Our nails go through a lot. They snag on sweaters, get slammed in car doors, and crack when we neglect to file them properly and it only gets worse when we start to bite them.

Onychophagia (habitual nail biting) not only ruins your nails, but it can lead to health problems such as infections and cracked teeth. Unfortunately, once you start, it’s hard to break the habit.

Scientists have categorized it as a body-focused repetitive disorder (distantly related to obsessive-compulsive disorders) that usually helps people cope with stress and anxiety.

However, the habit of biting your nails has been found to reveal much more than your stress levels. According to a study out of the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, it is also a sign that you’re a perfectionist.

Researchers conducted a survey of 48 participants, half of whom had body-focused repetitive disorders. The results showed that those with a disorder exhibited signs of organizational perfectionists, namely overworking themselves, overplanning, and getting frustrated quickly.

Later on, the participants were put in four situations designed to make them feel stressed, frustrated, bored, and relaxed. The situations associated with the first three emotions caused those with a body-focused repetitive disorder to give into their individual nervous behaviours, including nail biting.

The researchers believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviours may be perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform tasks at a normal pace. This fact makes them more prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals.

The way such people deal with those negative feelings is through biting their nails.

If this sounds anything like you, there are tricks that can help you stop biting your nails, or you can talk to a dermatologist about other options. The perfectionist tendencies may be hard to control, but at least you can get perfect nails at home without having to nibble on them.

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