Some call it a gross, nervous habit, but biting your nails may not be caused by anxiety. More and more evidence is showing that people who compulsively bite their nails, pick at their skin and pull on their hair are perfectionists, and these compulsive activities soothe irritation, boredom, and the feeling of dissatisfaction.
One study, published in the March issue of the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry indicates that it’s perfectionism, but it is still a damaging trait.
“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,” Dr. Kieron O’Connor, professor of psychiatry at the university and the study’s lead author, said in a press release.. “They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals. They also experience greater levels of boredom.”
Their study examined 48 participants, all of whom regularly bit their nails, picked at their skin, and pulled at their hair. Participants were asked questions about boredom, anger, guilt, irritability, and anxiety. Each was then exposed to situations designed to provoke certain feelings.
“We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviors maybe perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform tasks at a ‘normal’ pace,” author and professor Kieron O’Connor from the University of Montreal told The Daily Mail. “They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals.”
“They also experience greater levels of boredom,” O’Connor added.
These findings are important because they help therapists treat people who suffer from disorders.