- Sunday, 05 March 2017
If you asked a bunch of people what they thought about nail-biting, most of them would probably describe it as a nervous habit.
But, according to new research, anxiety might not actually be the driving force behind finger-chomping and other ‘body-focused repetitive behaviors.’ Instead, the study – published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry – points the finger at… perfectionism?
“We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviors may be perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform tasks at a normal pace,” said study author Dr. Kieron O’Connor. “They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals.” In other words, it’s not anxiety that nail-biters are trying to quell; it’s frustration.
The Study : To reach this conclusion, researchers studied 48 participants. Half of them were individuals who engaged in repetitive behaviors like nail-biting. They had the participants fill out a number of surveys designed to test their organizational behavior and emotion regulation.
Subsequently, the nail-biters were identified as organizational perfectionists. As reported by Scientific American, organizational perfectionism is characterized by a tendency to over-plan, over-work and become frustrated by a lack of activity. Nail-biting helps perfectionists feel less frustrated in the present. As you might expect, it helps them release some of that pent up energy and intention. However, this satisfaction does not last very long as it’s quickly replaced by pain and, potentially, embarrassment.