What Nail-Biting Says About Your Personality
Think about some habits that someone does when they’re nervous.
They might bounce their pencil incessantly on the table. Tap their foot annoyingly. They could even play with their clothes, rub their hands together, lick their lips, or grind their teeth.
One of the most illustrative habits is someone biting their nails.
Many of these habits can definitely be annoying, but more often they’re seen as a signal that someone is stressed or feelings anxious.
Researches have found out that it might be more than just anxious behavior. It might say something about your personality.
Nail-biting is still very much associated with nervous behavior. Some psychologists associate it with people who are obsessive compulsive.
However, a study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychology says that stress isn’t the only thing can can bring out the nervous tics. It may be a result from someone who is a perfectionist.
A research team from Montreal classifies nail-biting as a “body focused repetitive behavior”. Other types of behaviors that fall into this category include playing with or pulling hair and scratching/picking at skin.
One of the lead researchers, Kieron O’connor gave this explanation about the behavior:
“Although these behaviors can induce important distress, they also seem to satisfy an urge and deliver some form of reward. We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviors may be perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform task at a ‘normal’ pace.”
This can affect people in a number of ways. Kieron describes these effects:
“They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals. They also experience greater levels of boredom.”
To study these behaviors – and the people afflicted by them – they gathered up 48 individuals. Half of the group exhibited the repetitive behaviors and the other half did not.
A screening process was used. This included clinical evaluations by phone and questionnaires evaluating each person’s emotions and personality.
Participants were then tested with four different scenarios designed to provoke specific emotional states. Stress, relaxation, frustration and boredom.
The individuals with a history of repetitive behaviors reported the urge to engage in the repetitive behaviors more than the group with no history. This occurred for each emotional scenario except for relaxation.
This seems pretty logical, considering previous issue with the behaviors. But the experiments show that these tendencies can be triggered by more than just feeling nervous.
Sarah Roberts, the lead on the study, explains:
“This means that condition is not simply due to ‘nervous’ habits. The findings suggest that individuals suffering from body-focused repetitive behaviors could benefit from treatments designed to reduce frustration and boredom and to modify perfectionist beliefs.”
Spotting the Perfectionist
So that person you notice tapping their foot or grinding their teeth isn’t necessarily anxious about something. It could very well be a sign of perfectionist tendencies.
Being a perfectionist isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Setting ambitious goals and shooting for high achievement can be rewarding. However, some studies have found that the real danger from perfectionism comes from unhealthy thought patterns that can accompany the personality trait.
Repetitive body-focused behaviors can be one of the downsides to having a perfectionist personality.
Hopefully, this study can bring awareness to additional methods which can help alleviate situations that can cause discomfort.