5 tips to stop digging nails into the skin due to anxiety

This post answers: What are the tips to stop digging nails into the skin due to anxiety? What are the other negative effects of digging nails into the skin due to anxiety? What is Anxiety? What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety? What are the causes of anxiety? What are some ways to manage anxiety? What are the therapy options for anxiety?

What are the tips to stop digging nails into the skin due to anxiety?

Some ways to stop digging nails into the skin due to anxiety involve a combination of self-help strategies and therapy such as:

Self-help strategies

Cut your nails short

When individuals get their nails manicured it helps to shorten the length of their nails which reduces the amount of harm caused by digging their nails into their skin when they experience high levels of anxiety.

Getting one’s nails manicured and shortening the length is something individuals can do at any given point in time without any demanding resources.

Get professional manicure

Seeking professional help to manicure their nails helps to maintain a standard length of the nails that are safe and healthy and also helps to get rid of cuticles and calluses that may cause further harm while experiencing anxiety or otherwise.

Use bandages

In extreme cases when individuals dig their nails into the skin due to high levels of stress and anxiety, they can take the help of adhesive bandages to wrap their fingers including their nails such that they can keep away from harming themselves.

Stay distracted

The best way to avoid digging one’s nails into their skin when one feels anxious is to keep themselves busy as well as their hands. This can be done by distracting oneself from other activities that require the active movement of their hands and fingers.

Seek help

Even after trying the above-mentioned strategies if individuals find it difficult to keep from digging their nails into their skin due to high levels of stress and anxiety they must consult a doctor who can help them regulate their emotions and also get rid of this habit of self-harm that might be a possible reason of obsessive-compulsive disorder.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Apart from self-help strategies individuals can also consider seeking help through therapy. One of the most effective ones is cognitive behavioral therapy which is used in cases of mental health conditions.

In cognitive-behavioral therapy, the therapist tries to replace individuals’ negative thoughts and emotions with more positive ones which further affect their behavior and actions. Once individuals can replace their negative thoughts and emotions with positive ones there is a likelihood that their anxieties reduce further reducing their habit of digging their nails into their skin.

Habit reversal therapy

Habit reversal therapies in another strategy that can help stop individuals from digging their nails into their skin. The main aim of this therapy is to replace the habit of digging nails with healthier habits such as using stress relief objects.

Why do individuals dig their nails into their skin while experiencing anxiety?

Researchers indicate that individuals dig their nails into their skin while experiencing anxiety due to high levels of stress and pain that they experience due to the overwhelming symptoms of anxiety.

Individuals report experiencing a sense of relief when they dig their nails into their skin while experiencing anxiety. However, this is contradicted by many researchers saying that this behavior does not reduce but increases the pain due to self-harm.

Apart from digging one nail into the skin while experiencing anxiety individuals might carry out other obsessive-compulsive behaviors such as nail-biting or lip picking.

What are the other negative effects of digging nails into the skin due to anxiety?

Some other negative effects of digging nails into the skin due to anxiety are:

  • Significant dental problems
  • Bone and skin infections
  • Fungal infections of the nail
  • Damage to the nails and cuticles
  • Deep cuts on various parts of the body
  • In severe cases bleeding of the skin

What is Anxiety?

Problems and resulting stress are usually accompanied by some common emotions like confusion, feeling at the edge, a sense of helplessness, and recurrent negative thoughts which can collectively be seen as an individual experiencing what’s commonly called  Anxiety. 

Every human has their unique ways of dealing with these difficult situations and the following emotions, some try to adapt to the circumstances and find the best and most comfortable solution while others try to find an escape route for the same, in both cases the main aim is usually to get over the uncomfortable emotions of anxiety. 

What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety? 

Anxiety is characterized by a set of signs and symptoms such as:


  • Sweating
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sense of choking
  • Complaints of chest pain
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness
  • Fear of losing control over oneself and their environment
  • Fear of impending doom
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Increased heart rate

These symptoms vary in severity from person to person. However, it is noted that many people experience anxiety attacks that are not significantly displayed.

What are the causes of anxiety?

Anxiety often results from accumulated stress or overwhelming feelings. Some common causes of anxiety include.

  • Increased and challenging situations and demands in day-to-day life.
  • Major changes in family dynamics such as marriage, divorce, death of a loved one.
  • Strain interpersonal relationships
  • Intrapersonal conflicts
  • Ineffective coping mechanisms
  • Comorbid conditions both physical and mental
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Genetic factors
  • Changes in the brain region
  • Overdose of caffeine
  • Prolonged use of medications
  • Significant traumatic experiences in the past or recent times
  • Comorbid mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder or any other phobias.

What are some ways to manage anxiety?

Identify and acknowledge the triggers

The most significant strategy that can be used to control one’s anxiety is by identifying and acknowledging those triggers.

Being able to recognize what makes an individual anxious makes them better equipped to take action.

Relaxation techniques

Even though anxiety can be bought under an individual’s control it cannot be predicted. In such situations, it is necessary that an individual actively carries out relaxation techniques.

These might include meditation, yoga, and deep breathing which helps to reduce the intensity of anxiety within a short period.


A key to reducing the frequency and intensity of anxiety attacks could be spending time with close family and friends.

The kind of emotional and practical support provided by these social and personal groups help the person feel connected and aid in distracting one’s mind from negative and recurring thoughts that lead to anxiety.

Apart from friends and families, individuals can also consider speaking to groups of people that are experiencing similar problems.

Set realistic goals

When an individual is feeling overwhelmed, setting goals and targets keeping in mind priorities can help resolve overwhelming feelings of fear or panic.

Setting goals provides structure and routine to an individual’s life reducing space for uncertainty which can be a major trigger for anxiety in many cases.

Take up new challenges

Apart from doing activities that an individual is usually fond of and has expertise in, trying new and challenging activities that put an individual outside their comfort zone in a healthy manner may help reduce the stress and anger temporarily.

Signing up for new activities also provides a path to meeting people with similar stories and concerns.

Lifestyle change

An individual’s lifestyle plays a major role in their experience of anxiety. An unhealthy and busy lifestyle usually leads to unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, lack of adequate sleep.

A combination of a well-set diet, exercise, and sleep can help to regulate an individual’s mood and equip them with a favorable coping mechanism.

These coping mechanisms in turn help to get control over once anxiety concerns in a more adaptable manner.

lack of proper diet, sleep, and exercise can make an individual sluggish, dependent, moody and vulnerable to anxiety attacks.

Making journal entries

Last but not least having a journal to write down how a person is feeling and thinking when they are anxious helps them to reflect upon their thoughts and feelings.

Putting down one’s thoughts and feelings onto a paper helps to provide a sense of temporary relief.

In the case of journal entry, a person does not even have to fear being judged by another person regarding their thoughts and feelings.

What are the therapy options for anxiety?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps an individual to control their anxiety by using strategies like relaxation and breathing. It works on the principles of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is a kind of therapy in which an individual is exposed to a particular stimulus that they usually fear or are anxious about in a graded order.

As and when the individual gets comfortable with the situation or stimulus introduced or exposed to them with each session, individuals get more comfortable with a real-life situation that might have otherwise been a source for triggering anxiety.

Group therapy


It is based on the principle that when an individual interacts with other people who are suffering from the same fears they might not feel left alone or isolated. Group therapy usually involves a group of individuals who are experiencing similar symptoms and problems.


Anxiety can also be treated with the help of medication prescribed by a health care professional.

Though medication alone cannot help in reducing persistent anxiety it can help in restoring a sense of control and bring temporary relief. 

Online therapy  

In cases where reaching out physically to a professional is impossible or discomforting an individual can opt to seek help through the online medium. 

In this, the therapy sessions are carried out one-to-one over a video or audio call. Some individuals also prefer interacting with the therapist through text as well due to various reasons. One of the most common is the fear of being judged by the therapist or some personal hesitation. 

Online therapy can help individuals to regulate some aspects of their anxiety that aids individuals in carrying out a stress-free life over time


The digging of nails into the skin due to high levels of stress and anxiety is not a direct symptom of anxiety it is caused due to heightened levels of stress and other related symptoms.

The best way to get rid of this habit and self-harm practice is to focus on one’s management of anxiety and regulating their emotions effectively that do not push them to a point where they start harming themselves.

Frequently asked questions: What are the tips to stop digging nails into the skin due to anxiety?

Why do I squeeze my hands and dig my nails into my skin while sleeping?

Clenching one’s fist while sleeping is normal in many individuals. This can be a result of some discomfort caused to an individual during sleep or while waking up.

Is nail-biting a form of OCD?

Mental health professionals categorize chronic nail-biting as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder as individuals have a tough time stopping this behavior.

What is the fear of fingernails called?

The phobia of fear of fingernails are called Onychotillomania

How do I stop biting my nails due to anxiety?

Many individuals tend to bite their nails when they experience high levels of stress and anxiety. In such situations, individuals can distract themselves and keep their hands busy by using a stress relief object.



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