Nail biting or onychophagia is an oral compulsive habit common among individuals of all ages, though it is most prevalent among adolescents and young adults. For most people, nail biting is a minor and relatively harmless condition, though it may become a severe long-term issue for some. In particularly severe cases, people may require professional treatment to alleviate the compulsion. There are often debates in the medical community discussing whether nail biting is a purely psychological condition or if it originates from a physical cause.
There is a significant lack of research on nail biting. Many people consider it an undesirable habit, but it is not clear where the line lies between general distaste and danger. People with pathological nail biting tend to bite their nails more frequently, with greater intensity, and for longer durations than an average person who chooses to bite their nails. Because there isn’t a clear distinction between pathological and non-pathological nail biting, medical professionals realize that they may not fully understand the compulsion that drives patients to bite their nails. Some professionals believe nail biting is an impulse control disorder, while others believe it is a stereotypic movement disorder, an obsessive-compulsive disorder, or self-injurious behavior.
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