The nail biting habit has much in common with smoking. It is a ritualistic, physical habit. Either might be caused by the mechanics of a simple physical routine, or may perhaps be indicative of deeper psychological root causes. And in either case the habit itself can be very effectively halted with hypnotherapy.
Discovering and resolving underlying psychological issues, which are exhibited in nail biting and smoking can be a process that requires numerous sessions with a knowledgeable hypnotherapist. Not all hypnotists and hypnotherapists are capable of working at the deep psychological level. Fortunately, for the purposes of eliminating a smoking or a nail biting habit, they are not required to work below the most direct physical level.
The immediate goal of finding a nail biting cure is far more straightforward. Many of our deeper psychological and emotional states are impacted by our physical state, so in solving the physical symptoms directly, we are also able to have an indirect impact on deeper issues. In addition, not all negative physical behaviors have underlying causes; sometimes it is merely just a physical habit; it just “feels” good for the individual to take part in them.
I have seen that the focused and relaxed state of hypnosis can achieve nearly miraculous results when used in causing simple physical state changes. Whenever I eliminate severe burn pain, remove nausea, and solve other physical symptoms for a client in just a few seconds, it still surprises and amazes me, even though I am supposedly the one with the “power” (although as we know, the true power exists within the client’s unconscious mind). The capabilities exist in each of our minds to block severe pain and nausea; so the ability to prevent one from biting their nails is a modest goal in comparison.
I have found three of the powerful aspects of hypnotherapy to be anchoring, substitution and association. With association, one can link the undesirable behavior to something aversive; with substitution, one can replace the bad habit with an innocuous one; with anchoring, one can connect physical movement triggers with alternative feelings and behaviors.
With association, just like the simple hypnotic phenomenon can make a piece of white bread taste like the most delectable New York Cheesecake to a subject, one can make the feeling and taste of nail biting to be extremely distasteful. If your subject is consistently and repeatedly conditioned that the taste and feel of nail biting is very unpleasant, it will help to cause the habit to cease.
There are chemical products that achieve this goal via foul tasting nail polish. However, with a mental association it is easy to stop nail biting without relying on consistently applying a chemical product. This “aversion” type of therapy generally isn’t very helpful. But it is only reliable when used as an adjunct to eliminating stress that causes one to bite their nails, as well as extinguishing conditioned responses (unconscious associations), which triggers one to bite their nails.
With substitution, it can be effective to replace the nail-biting behavior with a more benign affliction. For instance, it is quite effective to make the suggestion that whenever one feels the impulses that lead them towards nail biting, they will take a deep breath instead, and slowly exhale, achieving all the same feelings and resolution that nail biting used to bring. I have found the deep breathing substitute to be very effective for a wide range of problems.
Similarly, anchoring can be used to subvert one action into another, and works well with association and substitution. It is useful to create the suggestion that each and every time subjects see their fingers coming to their mouth, they vividly remember the unpleasant taste association, and they instead take a deep breath to resolve the tension.
In summary, hypnotherapy has been recognized as one of the most successful methods for negative habit modification. Just as with smoking cessation, the techniques and concepts discussed here prove to be very successful as a long-term nail-biting solution.
Alan B. Densky, CH has been assisting clients with stress related symptoms since 1978. He’s created a complete 7-session self-hypnosis break the nail biting habit CD based on Ericksonian Hypnosis and NLP. Visit his self-hypnosis site for free articles on hypnosis, and advice.