Are you someone who gnaws on your fingernails throughout the day? If so, you certainly have a lot of company. It’s estimated that about one-third of adults continue to bite their fingernails.
IF YOU BITE YOUR NAILS, HERE’S WHAT IT MEANS ABOUT YOU
Body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) are described as “repetitive, injurious, and non-functional habits that cause significant distress or impairment, including hair-pulling, skin-picking, and nail-biting.”
The research team attempted to compare the tendency to participate in the BFRB program with two models: emotional regulation (ER) and frustrated action (FA).
The ER model implies that BFRBs are triggered by negative emotions and alleviation of unpleasant effect. The AF model assumes that BFRBs are triggered by impatience, boredom, frustration, and dissatisfaction and attenuate them.
Researchers hypothesized that individuals who engage in BFRBs are more prone to actions under the FA model, as “they demonstrate maladaptive planning styles characterized by high standards and unwillingness to relax,” two inherent traits in perfectionists.
After observing a ‘BFRB group’ and a control group, consisting of 24 and 23 participants, respectively, researchers concluded the correctness of their hypothesis. The study’s results include three observations:
1) The BFRB group reported a considerably higher urge to engage in BFRBs than the control group across conditions.
(2) The research team attempted to compare the tendency to participate in the BFRB program with two models: emotional regulation (ER) and frustrated action (FA).
(3) Most tellingly, the BFRB group “presented significantly higher scores on maladaptive planning style, and maladaptive planning style was significantly correlated with difficulties in ER.”
THE STUDY AND PERFECTIONISM
The lead author of the study, Dr. Kieron O’Connor, stated “We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviors may be perfectionists, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform tasks at a normal pace. They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals.”
In other words, nail-biting may have less of a correlation with nerves and anxiety than with frustration. This observation, along with the study’s demonstrated linkage of nail-biting and other perfectionistic traits – impatience, boredom, and dissatisfaction – provides further evidence to the idea that perfectionism may prompt the act of nail-biting.