Nail-biting is widely considered to be a bad habit linked to anxiety, but recent studies suggest the behavior is instead linked to perfectionism, Elite Daily reports.
A study conducted by University of Montreal professor Kieron O’Connor examined the behavior of 48 individuals, and how their behavior was altered by separate stimuli, designed to provoke responses of stress, relaxation, and more.
The results were eventually published in the Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry and testified that the subjects with a history of compulsive behavior were most likely to engage in nail-biting after exposure to stimuli causing boredom and frustration. They didn’t participate in the relaxation portion of the study.
From Elite Daily:
These findings correlate with the expected responses of perfectionists, who, according to O’Connor, “are prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals,” adding, “they also experience greater levels of boredom.”
The repetitive behaviors the participants did engage in “seem to satisfy an urge or deliver some sort of reward,” O’Connor concluded.
Essentially, biting your nails isn’t just a way to indulge nervous habits, but a way to indulge your perfectionism, which is rarely a bad thing in moderation. The only problem comes when you can’t keep your perfectionism under control, and you bite your fingertips until they’re raw and swollen. Then, maybe it’s a bad thing.