Gnawing at a hang-nail, having a nervous nibble at my fingertips, giving my cuticles a good chew, this is the life of a nail biter, and I've been one for as long as I can remember.
There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to my habit except that, by nature, I can't sit still or relax easily. I always need to be doing something.
I've tried all of the usual deterrents including the horrible-tasting paint, wearing acrylics or "falsies" but the most I could manage was a two week stint without gnawing on my nails.
It seems I'm not alone. Some stats purport 20-30 per cent of the population are nail biters. And there are plenty of theories why: stress, anxiety, nervousness, boredom, frustration… the list goes on.
My husband has been fairly tolerant. I went for months not being able to easily open jars, cans, or even child-proof door handles for fear of breaking off a false nail. He reached breaking point one day in the car. Whilst driving, one of my falsies came off and without thinking I asked him to find the glue in my bag and stick it back on. After some profanities he told me to 'sort it out' and 'go and see a hypnotist or something'.
And so I did. At almost $300 "treatment" isn't cheap. But if you add up what I have spent in the past year or so on false nails and nail polishes, it doesn't seem bad at all.
I tried to go in with an open mind. My first session didn't start well. The hypnotist looked like a teenager and had bare feet. He hit play on his iPad and the quintessential "you're falling into a trance" music began.
Then his tone changed to that of a stereotypical hypnotist – that slow, deep, "you're getting sleepy" kind of drawl. It took every fibre of my being to keep my sniggers in.
Soon, however, I was feeling very relaxed. I was asked to find a calm place in mind. With two young kids, a full time job and my volunteer work, I was quite happy to sit in relative silence and find a calm place. (Note to self: do that more often).
He told me my hands were magnetic and that on the count of three the magnets would pull my hands together and then they would drop to my lap. For some bizarre reason they did seem heavier than usual.
I did as I was told.
He told me to fight the urge to "chew off a part of me" and instead to feel a sense of calm.
All up, the session was about half an hour and I left feeling relaxed.
Over the week that followed I didn't bite my nails.
The next session was a week later. The horrendous trance music featured again. So did the sleepy drawl. This time, however, he was wearing shoes.
This session, about 15 to 20 minutes this time, focused on a question: "Why would you want to disrespect a piece of yourself?"
I was taken through the action of bringing my hand to my mouth and dropping it straight to my lap, over and over. It got to a point where I didn't even want to lift my hand near my mouth.
Two sessions apparently does it. And both were included in the circa $300 price.
My "homework" was to keep a pair of nail clippers in the car - that's supposedly when most people bite their nails.
But you know what? I haven't had to use them yet. It's been three weeks and I haven't bitten my nails.
If you can afford to, my advice is give hypnosis a go. What have you got to lose other than a habit plaguing you for a lifetime?