Nail Biting (& Nail Picking) Hypnotherapy

What is a Nail Biting Habit (Onychophagia)?

Nail biting is one of the more common stress relieving vices.  It is considered an “impulse control disorder” in the DSM-IV-R.

The habit of biting nails can lead to several problems.  Commonly it leads to broken skin on the nail cuticle which often causes viral and microbial infections.  The habit also seems to cause dental problems such as malocclusions on the anterior teeth from the consistent picking and biting. The habit usually first presents itself in childhood and continues until adulthood if left untreated.

Symptoms of a Nail Biting or Nail Picking Habit:

  • The inability to stop or control the habit of biting and or picking your fingernails
  • Broken and infected cuticles.
  • Reddened skin

Who comes to see me for help with this?

A high number of professional people.  From solicitors to sales reps.  The habit usually is correlated with highly stressful jobs.  People tend to exhibit a greater tendency to pick and bite their nails when they require a higher level of concentration throughout the day.

Hypnosis as a form of treatment for Nail Biting:


There has been multiple research studies on the efficacy of hypnosis in treating nail biting.  The following is a quote taken from one research article.  Links to this and other studies can be found in the resource section at the bottom.

“Results for all Ss indicated immediate and dramatic increase in fingernail lengths concomitant with the introduction of treatment. At 3-month follow-up, 1 S demonstrated a moderate reversal effect while the remaining 2 Ss continued to indicate substantial progress. These findings were discussed with regard to the efficacy of hypnobehavioral treatment strategies and utilization of single-case experimental designs in future hypnotherapy research.”

(Philip H. Bornstein, Robert G. Rychtarik, Miles E. McFall, Jill Winegardner, Rochelle L. Winnett, David A. Paris International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis Vol. 28, Iss. 3, 1980)

My Nail Biting Hypnotherapy program

My program consists of three to five hypnosis sessions. Three sessions are normally recommended . Some see satisfactory improvement after one session but three or more are recommended.

Case Study: Jess, Manager (name changed for privacy reasons):

“Jess” worked at a management firm and found that during periods of intense concentration she would often catch herself biting her nails.  She came to see me because she didn’t like the way her fingernails looked nor how the habit appeared to others.  She had a long history of biting her nails in the past but felt the problem had increased in recent times due to the nature of her job.  We worked on the unconscious processes leading up to the habit with guided imagery, ego state therapy and suggestion.  After two sessions she felt there had been significant improvement.  She showed me her nails and there had been definite improvement in length.  In the future I intend to take photos of the nails with the client’s permission so that we can adequately test the outcomes with before and after photos.


  1. “Nail Biting.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 20 May 2014. Web. 20 May 2014.
  1. “Nail-Biting-Topic Overview.” WebMD. WebMD, 03 Jan. 0000. Web. 20 May 2014.
  1. Hypnosis and the treatment of nail biting: A preliminary trial.

Wagstaff, Graham F.; Royce, Catherine Contemporary Hypnosis, Vol 11(1), 1994, 9-13.

  1. Hypnobehavioral treatment of chronic nailbiting: A multiple baseline analysis

Philip H. Bornstein, Robert G. Rychtarik, Miles E. McFall, Jill Winegardner, Rochelle L. Winnett, David A. Paris

International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis Vol. 28, Iss. 3, 1980

Please Note: I do not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The content on my website is not, and is not intended to be substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your Doctor or other Government qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding this or any other medical issue or condition.

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