#mentalhealthmonday – nervous habits

With my anxiety getting worse over the past couple of years, I’ve realised that some of my nervous habits have been getting worse, too. So, let’s talk about them.

Trigger warnings: minor self-harm, skin biting and picking, mentions of blood, mentions of alcohol

I’ve always had a bit of a nervous habit of biting the skin around my nails, and the nails themselves. (I know, hands are dirty and gross. I don’t like it either.) I used to only do it when I was particularly nervous, such as before an exam. But over the past couple of months I’ve been doing it more and more, biting and picking when particularly anxious, when thinking, and when reading. It’s pretty unconscious now, except when it really hurts and I make myself bleed.

Most of the time, I don’t think it is a self-harm thing. It’s kind-of comforting. It’s something to do with my hands when I’m feeling unsure, and that makes me feel better. (I have the same thing with rubbing my feet against the sheets when I’m lying in bed – a habit I picked up from having restless legs a couple of years ago.) However, I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t occasionally a minor self-harm thing when I’m feeling really awful.

I’ve had a couple of ideas of how to help with this. The first would be to maybe wear gross-tasting nail polish, so I wouldn’t put them near my mouth. The second would be to wear nail polish, because that way I might either not bite because I want to keep them looking nice, OR to scrape the nail polish off instead of biting. (I’ve done that as a nervous thing before). I could maybe get a little toy to keep in my pocket so I fiddle with that instead? Not sure.

Another nervous habit that I used to have (not so much now) is drinking. Whenever I was in a social situation that made me anxious, I would compulsively take little sips of whatever I had in my hands. Generally, this was water, so it wasn’t too bad. But sometimes it would be something unhealthy like alcohol. I would sip as soon as I felt anxious, making a big production of twisting bottle caps on and off. I wish I could have learned from this habit, because I don’t remember how I stopped! (It might have been because it was making me pee all the time. Although that was sometimes nice, because it would get me out of anxiety-inducing social situations for a minute or two.)

Unfortunately, I don’t have any solutions yet for my nervous habits. If you have any suggestions, leave a comment below!

7 thoughts on “#mentalhealthmonday – nervous habits

  1. thepaperbackpiano says:

    I do the same thing with my hands. I’ve always done it and I don’t know how to stop, half the time I don’t even realise I’m doing it. I want to have nice-looking hands though, especially now that I’m posting my piano-playing videos – I’m hoping that will act as a deterrent! Painting your nails seems like a good idea. I hope you can find something that works for you.


    1. whatthelog says:

      Yeah, I think a big part of the problem is that I don’t realise when I’m doing it. I’m in a similar situation – I want to have nice hands because I’m getting engaged at some point in this year, and I want my fingers to look nice for photos and things! If I find anything that works, I’ll let you know 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. christine @ lady gets lit says:

    I don’t bite my nails but I definitely pick at my fingers when I’m nervous. It’s so subconscious that I usually don’t notice it until (a) someone calls me out on it or (b) I start bleeding. What’s weird is that my mom totally does this too, so I guess I picked it up on accident? I didn’t realize it was a nervous habit until a therapist called me on it several years ago.

    To be honest, I’d never labeled it as self-harm before, but reading this post made me really think about it critically. Yes, it’s a nervous habit that I almost can’t help…but only because I’ve never really tried before. I also never realized I bite my lip when I’m nervous (I know, just like a YA character) but I never noticed that until my fiance called me out on it recently.

    I’m not sure what the solution is here for either of us. I like the idea of painting my nails though. I never used to since we technically weren’t supposed to have painted nails when I worked in food. But I definitely want to get a handle on this small bad habit, sooner rather than later.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ayah says:

    I do the same thing with fingers, Christine. I also often start pulling my eyebrow’s hair, but I can’t tell if it is self harm, or a way for me to cope with my anxiety and stress. You’ve opened a great discussion Wendy, and I am starting to wonder if unconscious methods of coping that includes destroying any body part is actually self harm in disguise.


  4. colorfulbookreviews says:

    Two possibilities for nail picking/biting besides the nail polish are using liquid bandage on your cuticles. It will make them shiny but also protect from the thoughtless picking. If you are able to stop then it will also just wear off normally through hand washing. The other is a fidget ring, there’s different types but they have gears that move or ones with indents to rub. Pocket fidget cubes or the ones with a marble inside a fabric tube might work too. If you go the nailpolish route, there is a type of latex nailpolish that comes off nicely, but would have to be reapplied. Gel nailpolish can hurt you if you pick at it so I’d stick with the latex or normal acrylic.


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