Do you know a nail biter? Is she mostly perfect, except for her nail biting? Do you know a compulsive hair twister? Is she an impeccable study in refinement, aside from her hair-twisting? Maybe you do! Scientists are linking body-focused compulsive habits to perfectionists.
Scientists at the University of Montreal published a study in this month’s issue of the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry that suggests that perfectionism might be at the root of these habits. In a few experiments, nail biters said they wanted to chew more strongly when they were prohibited from completing work in a timely manner and when they were bored (left in a room alone for six minutes). "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," said the study's lead author, Dr. Kieron O'Connor. "They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals.”
They need new goals, like chomping down on their nails and destroying their manicures. It’s the perfectionist's Catch-22: They might be soothed, but their nails will get mangled.