What is the role of nail-biting in your personality trait?
Nail biting is one of the most observed body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). Body-focused repetitive behaviors are maladaptive behaviors that may cause impairment in individuals’ functioning.
Aside from nail-biting, BFRB also involves hair pulling and skin picking.
What explains nail biting, hair pulling, and skin picking?
There are two leading theories on why people engage in BFRBs.
First is the emotion regulation model. Negative emotion triggers the occurrence of BFRBs. This process is reinforced by the decreased of unpleasant feeling.
In other words, BFRBs (e.g. nail biting, hair pulling, and skin picking) happen when someone does not feel good (frustrated). When the bad feeling comes in, one becomes more engaged in these behaviors to lessen negative emotion.
The frustrated action model is the second one. This model suggests that failure in any goal causes nail biting, hair pulling, and skin picking. Failure causes negative affect which in turn triggers impatience, frustration, and dissatisfaction.
People with body-focused repetitive behaviors are vulnerable to negative emotions due to their maladaptive thinking pattern, high standards and unwillingness to take rest.
Because of the previous assumption, some researchers believe that people who bite their nails are a perfectionist. Perfectionists hate failures. Failure causes them so much frustration.
To scientifically investigate these types of behaviors, a group of researchers conducted a study on BFRB.
The result suggests that;
“The BFRB group reported a significantly greater urge to engage in BFRBs than did the control group across conditions. Participants in the BFRB group reported a stronger urge to engage in BFRBs in the boredom/frustration condition than in the relaxation condition but not in the stress condition. Finally, the BFRB group presented significantly higher scores on maladaptive planning style, and maladaptive planning style was significantly correlated with difficulties with ER.”
There are two important conclusions here.
First, boredom or frustrated situation (but not stress) is the cause of nail biting, hair pulling, and skin picking.
Second, nail biting, hair pulling, and skin picking are the behavioral results of maladaptive thinking pattern. And maladaptive thinking pattern has something to do with the inability to regulate emotion.
I’m a licensed psychometrician, author, and blogger. I’m currently working as a University instructor teaching psychology. I love writing and doing psychological research.