Do You Bite Your Nails? It Might Mean You’re A Perfectionist

Are you mindlessly twisting your hair or biting your nails as you read this article? New research from the University of Montreal suggests that compulsive behaviors like these might say more about your personality than you think.

People who are generally impatient, or who get bored or frustrated easily, are more likely to engage in repetitive body-focused behaviors such as skin-picking, nail-biting or eyelash-pulling, the researchers found.

The study, published in the March issue of the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, points to perfectionism — a trait that can be more damaging than many people realize — as an underlying cause.

“We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviors may be perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform task at a ‘normal’ pace,” Dr. Kieron O’Connor, professor of psychiatry at the university and the study’s lead author, said in a press release Tuesday. “They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals. They also experience greater levels of boredom.”

In the study, the researchers worked with 48 participants, half of whom regularly engaged in these types of behaviors. The other participants, who didn’t engage in these behaviors, acted as a control group. The participants were asked questions about the extent to which they experienced emotions like boredom, anger, guilt, irritability and anxiety. Then, each participant was exposed to situations designed to provoke particular feelings (including relaxation, stress, frustration and boredom). In the boredom scenario, for instance, the subject was simply left alone in a room for six minutes.

Participants with a history of fidgety, body-focused behaviors reported greater urges to engage in those behaviors when they were feeling stressed and frustrated. But they didn’t report feeling those urges while they —> Read More