Science and Tech


Nail Biting Could Be A Sign Of Perfectionism

Researchers discovered that nail biting might not be just a nervous tick but a behavior perfectionists exhibit when they're bored.
Posted at 11:47 AM, Mar 17, 2015

Many of us bite our nails, right? Even celebrities do it.

According to researchers in Quebec, what may be seen as a nervous tick, may actually be what perfectionists do when they're bored.

They studied 48 people during four different sessions created to cause stress, frustration, boredom or relaxation in the participants. Half of the participants suffered from some sort of body-focused repetitive behavior like nail biting, picking at split ends or skin. 

Researchers say the participants who engaged in these repetitive behaviors were more likely to do so when they were frustrated, bored or stressed, as opposed to when they were relaxed.

In a press release, the lead researcher said this led his team to believe these may be signs of a perfectionist: "They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals. They also experience greater levels of boredom."

This discovery falls into place with what is already known about perfectionism. According to a stress management expert on, perfectionists are high achievers who get frustrated or beat themselves up when their goals aren't met.

This doesn't mean nailing biting is good for you, though. 

The Mayo Clinic reports it can harm your teeth as well as cause germs to spread from your fingers to your mouth, increasing your chances of developing a cold or other infections. 

But there's hope for those who engage in these repetitive behaviors. 

A writer for Bustle says this study "indicates that we might have learned these were societally acceptable reactions to certain feelings and developed small addictions to them."

And the researchers concluded in their study, which was published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, that nail biters and hair pullers would benefit from finding ways to reduce their perfectionist tendencies. 

Or, you know, own it.

Because if Kate Middleton can do it, maybe there's hope for the rest of us.

This video contains images from Getty Images, CileSuns92 / CC BY ND 2.0kiwinky / CC BY NC ND 2.0 and Freddie Pena / CC BY NC 2.0