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Nail Biting to be Classified as Mental Disorder: Report

Update Date: Nov 04, 2012 04:47 AM EST

Seeing people bite their nails is not an uncommon sight. People bite their nails in excitement, fear, nervousness, or most of the times, for no reason at all. As benign as it may seem, an attempt to quit an addiction to nail biting can be even harder than quitting cigarettes. While biting nails is not painful to the person, if overdone, it can cause bleeding and pain that lasts for 2-3 days or even cause an infection.

The news may upset a few habitual nail biters, but apparently, medical experts are now planning to change its classification from a mere habit to a full-fledged obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association is preparing to change the designation of nail biting from 'not otherwise classified' to 'obsessive compulsive disorder' in its upcoming issue of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, NBC News reported.

Other habits that commonly fall under OCD are repetitive hand-washing and hair-pulling. These actions are often a result of unreasonable thoughts and fears, leading to such repetitive behaviors.

While occasional chewing of nails does not indicate a disorder, repetitive biting, which goes up to the extent of hampering the usage of hands or causing infections repeatedly, may be a sign.

"As with hair pulling and skin picking, nail biting isn't a disorder unless it is impairing, distressing, and meets a certain clinical level of severity," Carol Mathews, M.D., a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, told NBC News.

"That is not the vast majority of nail bitters," she said.

Nail biting also leads to increased risk of contracting colds and other illnesses, as it encourages spread of germs through regular contact between nails to the lips and mouth.

Nail biters attempting to quit the habit may consider putting lemon juice or hot sauce on their digits, apart from perhaps wrapping nails in tape or Band-Aids to keep their hands off their mouth, Mail Online reported.

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