I am a lifelong nailbiter. I'm really serious about the "lifelong," too--I can't remember, even waaaayyyy back into my childhood, a time when I didn't bite my nails. I'm almost embarrassed to describe the severity of it, too. I mean, when I've been really bad about it, my nails are STUBS. There's almost nothing there. It's NOT just a mild case of biting at the occasional hangnail.
Trust me, it ain't this cute. (Source.)
I've never seriously tried to stop before. When I was little, my mom would put that bitter stuff on my fingers, but I'd just pick at them instead. I know my ravaged nails are highly unattractive, but that was never enough to compel me to stop.
However, this past January, I thought our engagement was imminent (which was not actually true; we didn't get engaged until May!). Knowing that once Mr. Octopus proposed, I would be frequently and prominently displaying my fingers, I finally felt driven enough to force myself to break the habit. I didn't actually use any techniques or tricks, just the force of sheer willpower. It was really hard!! Once, after a few months, Mr. O asked me if I ever still felt like biting my nails--and my response was that I had to force myself not to bite them, several times a day, every single day, since I gave it up in January.
Take a look at these outtakes from my engagement ring photo shoot:
Those nails are the result of FOUR MONTHS of deeply concentrated effort. I actually got a lot of comments on them, too. I was half pleased, and half mortified that my raggedy-ass nails had been so notorious.
Unfortunately, that's not the happy ending. The two most common triggers for my nailbiting were stress and periods where my hands were idle for a long time---particularly, reading. Well, this past August, I started a rigorous master's degree program. Since then, I have been doing a whole lot of three things: stressing, reading, and biting my nails. Sad face.
I've got a new motivation now, though. I'm going to be a bridesmaid in April (for Erica, she of Running of the Brides fame!). Erica has always been particularly grossed out by my naibiting habit, and I really want to make sure my nails are not a hot mess and I get to partake in getting a manicure like all the other non-compulsive-habit-having bridesmaids.
What can I do? Is there anything other than sheer mental effort that can stop a serious nailbiter in her tracks?