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by Abigail Van Buren

Reader Looks For Advice To Quit Nasty Nibbling Habit

DEAR ABBY: I have had an embarrassing problem ever since grammar school. I bite my nails and cuticles until they bleed. If the pain is severe, or I see a piece of cuticle hanging, I stop until it heals. But then I start up again. How can quit this ugly habit? -- MANIC IN GRANDVIEW, MO.

DEAR MANIC: You have a problem that I'm told is shared by one in 12 adults. There is more than one solution for it, and the common denominator in all of them is motivation. Some helpful suggestions submitted by readers in years past:

(1) "What helped me to finally stop at age 45 was that 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 feel 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 my bed. If I feel a snag, I immediately smooth the offending nail. It has eliminated my need to bite."

(2) "My high school teacher included some interesting lessons in personal hygiene in his biology class. One day, he asked us to scrape under our fingernails and look at what we removed under a microscope. Seeing face to face what had collected under there was enough to stop me from biting my nails. I haven't chewed them in nearly 30 years."

(3) "What stopped me was a job I landed as a teenager. I became an usher at a movie theater. My job required wearing a uniform, including white gloves. Not long after I landed the job, I noticed I had nice nails. The gloves were what did it."

(4) "Finally, when I was in my 30s, I asked my doctor to suggest a cure. He talked to me about obsessive-compulsive disorder and prescribed a low dose of a very safe drug used by people with O.C.D. In three weeks my nail-biting stopped for good."

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