Nail biting or even picking at a scab just a bit too much is something most of us have done. We’ve done it and been able to stop. For some people though, the urge to pull or pick continues and can even become too much to resist. Why does that happen?
Habitual nail biting, hair pulling, and skin picking are collectively referred to as body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). These recurrent, destructive behaviors directed toward the body are thought to be triggered by some unpleasant emotional state. They’re not uncommon and many people engage in these behaviors from time to time (e.g., nail biting) but do so at subclinical levels that create little or no distress. For others, however, their emotions somehow get misdirected, and the result is destructive body-focused behaviors like chronic, repetitive skin-picking and hair-pulling.