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A compulsive nail-biter asks if there are any resources BR can suggest that can help her stop, so sh

13 Sep
A compulsive nail-biter asks if there are any resources BR can suggest that can help her stop, so she can experience life without feeling self-concious and embarrassed about her hands with their bitten nails..
Dear BR,
I am middle-aged and still unable to quit biting my fingernails. I have tried all sorts of things: gloves, bandaids, bitter flavored topicals, crocheting. I wonder if this is a form of self-injury or maybe pica. Only time I definitely don''t bite my nails is if my hands are dirty, and, yes, I''ve been known to get up and go wash my hands so I can bite the nails.

I often "decide" not to do this anymore, but when the urge hits, usually while watching TV or reading, it''s as if my priorities shift and I feel some kind of distracted anxiety if I don''t bite them. I was eight yrs old when this started. I hated the sensation of having my nails trimmed and my sister taught me how to "trim" them myself.

At that time, the main reason Mother trimmed our nails was because we siblings scratched each other (for me it was always accidental) during arguments that became physical. I also remember associating fingernails with being pinched, especially by my sisters. Now if my nails grow out even a little bit they remind me of talons. And they feel too sharp and I''m astounded at what nasty stuff collects under them. I don''t have any pleasant associations with having long nails, but I would like to break this habit to preserve what''s left of the nail bed, to cease damaging my teeth and jaws and to make it easier to pick up items such as coins.

I am aware of many complex psychological connections within myself which seem to be in the way of improvement. I think this is part of a self-imposed strategy for keeping me "in my place". I must say, it would probably feel great to experience life without feeling self-concious and embarrassed about my hands with their bitten nails.

Can you help me?
Sarah



Dear Sarah,
I’m going to offer the same suggestion that I made to George last week (George had a phobia about vomiting and terrors of other forms of gastric distress). I understand what you’re saying and the connection you’re making with your discomfort with long nails and fear of your own aggression, given what nails represented in your growing up years. However, as I said to George, with an obsessive fear like his or a compulsive behavior like yours, insight is great for understanding it, but highly overrated for getting rid of it - even if the interpretation is spot on.

So, again, I recommend Mary Sise''s DVD, Thought Field Therapy for Stress Management as the best possibility for a quick, effective intervention. Her technique - a method that combines energy tapping with affirmations and bilateral eye movements and a bunch of other odd stuff (a combination of Thought Field Therapy or TFT and Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT) - may make no sense to you, but who cares if it helps? In my book on trauma and imagery, Invisible Heroes, I discuss how these "Alphabet therapies" are astonishingly effective at helping people get rid of obsessive and compulsive behaviors, phobias, and other pesky, persistent issues, which change so slowly with traditional psychotherapy. Nobody really knows how or why these highly targeted, brief protocols work. But Mary makes hers very accessible to the average viewer. And it’s a good shot at a shortcut.

After watching her demonstrate the technique with several volunteers from her audience (some with some wicked phobias and behavior issues) you get to work with Mary with a ‘fill in the blanks’ session. She''s very good and she knows what she''s doing. She’s also funny, smart and compassionate. It may take a few sessions before you see some change, but it’s worth the brief time and trouble. I’m very happy we carry this terrific DVD in our catalog . Good luck with this, and let me know how it goes.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award