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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: You printed a letter from a girl asking how to stop biting her fingernails. Although you listed some helpful suggestions, I would like to offer one that helped me to finally stop at age 45.

I sat down and tried to figure out WHY I kept biting my nails. I finally realized it was because I couldn't stand the feeling of a rough nail catching on the fabric of my clothing.

Now I keep emery boards -- from coarse to fine -- beside my favorite chair, in my purse, in my glove compartment and by the bed. If I feel a "snag," I immediately smooth the offending nail. It eliminates the "need" to bite. -- FORMER NERVOUS NAIL-CHEWER, SANDY, ORE.

DEAR FNNC: Thanks for the tip. I was amazed at the number of former nail-chewers who took pen in hand to lend a hand. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Thanks to my high school teacher, Mr. Elich, who included some interesting lessons in personal hygiene in his biology class, I haven't chewed my nails for nearly 30 years. One day he asked us to scrape under our fingernails and look at what we removed under a microscope.

The area under the nails can collect some unhealthy "specimens." Coming face-to-face with them was enough to make me think twice about biting my nails. -- PETER, BAY VIEW H.S. CLASS OF '75

DEAR PETER: You hit the nail on the head. Yech!

DEAR ABBY: I, too, was a confirmed nail-biter. What finally stopped me was a job I landed as a teen-ager. I became an usher at the Roxy Theater. The job required my wearing an immaculate uniform, including white gloves. Soon after I landed the job, I noticed that I had nice nails. The gloves were what did it. I never bit my nails again. -- S.S. IN FLORIDA

DEAR S.S.: Your solution makes sense. Out of sight, out of mind.

DEAR ABBY: I am a former compulsive nail-biter. Finally, at age 24, I went to a manicurist and had acrylic nails applied over my bitten, sore nail stubs. Acrylics are impossible to bite, and I needed to do it only once in order to break the habit. Even now, at 46, I occasionally get that biting urge, and the only way I can curb it is to go back to the manicurist. -- JANE, FORT MILL, S.C.

DEAR JANE: I'm pleased it worked for you, but some people are even driven to chew fake nails. Years ago, I wore porcelain nails, and if the urge became strong enough -- I'd bite them. Thank heavens short nails are now popular. It was an expensive habit.

DEAR ABBY: I suffered shame and guilt because I couldn't stop biting. Finally, when I was in my 30s, I asked my doctor if he could suggest a cure. To my surprise, he talked to me about obsessive-compulsive disorder and prescribed a low dose of a very safe drug used by people with OCD. In three weeks my nail-biting stopped for good. -- FORMER CHEWER, KEENE, N.H.

DEAR FORMER CHEWER: A survey mentioned in the 1977 issue of Dental Management magazine, sent to me by Edwin T. Coleman, D.D.S., of Knoxville, Tenn., stated that one out of 12 adults is a nail-biter. It concluded that of all of the successful cures that people may use, the one common denominator is MOTIVATION. And with that conclusion, I agree.

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