The underlying causes of most physical habits may be quite varied, and rooted at different psychological levels. While hypnotherapy has a wide range of applications, the behaviors that are most directly related to physical habits tend to be the ones that can be treated with hypnotherapy most directly and quickly. Smoking cessation hypnotherapy is the most well known of these, and is among the more successful and less invasive techniques for reaching its goal. Another popular area for hypnotherapy treatment is for weight control. Similarly, hypnotherapy is also the best technique for ending a nail biting habit.
Nail biting shares many similarities to smoking. It is a ritualistic, physical habit. Either may be caused by the mechanics of a physical routine, or can be symptomatic of deeper psychological issues. And in either case the habit itself can be quite effectively halted with hypnotherapy. Discovering and treating underlying psychological problems, which manifest themselves in nail biting or smoking can be a process that necessitates numerous sessions with a skilled hypnotherapist. Not all hypnotherapists and hypnotists are capable of working at the deep psychological level.
Thankfully, for the purposes of ending a nail biting or a smoking habit, they don't need to work below the most direct physical level. The more immediate goal of curing nail biting is much more straightforward. Many of our deeper emotional and psychological states are influenced by our physical state, so in treating physical symptoms directly, we can also indirectly impact deeper issues. Also, not all negative physical behaviors have an underlying cause; sometimes it is simply just a physical habit; and it just "feels" good for the individual to take part in them.
In my experience, the focused and relaxed state of hypnosis can have nearly miraculous results when it comes to causing simple changes to one's physical state. Whenever I relieve severe burn pain, remove nausea, and relieve other physical problems for a client in just seconds, it still surprises and amazes me, even though I am supposedly the one with the "power" (although as we know, the real power lies within the client's unconscious mind). Our minds are capable of blocking out severe pain and nausea; so the ability to prevent one from nail-biting is a relatively modest goal in comparison.
I've found three of the powerful aspects of hypnotherapy to be association, substitution and anchoring. With association, one can link a behavior to something aversive; with substitution, one may replace the bad habit with a harmless one; with anchoring, one may connect physical movement triggers with alternative feelings and behaviors. With association, just like the simple hypnotic parlor trick can make a piece of white bread taste like the best New York Cheesecake to a subject, one can make the feeling and taste of nail biting to be very distasteful. If your subject is consistently and repeatedly conditioned that the taste and feel of nail biting is very unpleasant, it will help to cause the habit to cease.
There are chemical products that achieve this goal via unpleasant tasting nail polish. However, with a mental association they can stop nail biting without relying upon consistently applying a chemical product. This "aversion" type of therapy isn't generally very helpful.
But it is only reliable when used as an adjunct to eliminating stress that causes one to bite their nails, as well as extinguishing conditioned responses (unconscious associations), which triggers one to bite their nails. Substitution can be used to effectively replace the nail-biting compulsion with a more benign habit. For instance, it is quite effective to make the suggestion that whenever one feels the impulses that lead them towards nail biting, they will instead take a deep breath, and slowly exhale, experiencing all the same feelings and resolution that nail biting used to bring. I have found the deep breathing substitute to be effective and relaxing for a wide variety of issues. Anchoring similarly can be used to subvert one action into another, and works well in combination with association and substitution.
It is useful to create the suggestion that each and every time subjects see their fingers coming to their mouth, they strongly recall the bad taste association, and they instead take a deep breath to relieve the tension. In summary, hypnotherapy has been proven as one of the more successful methods for negative habit modification. Just as with smoking cessation, the concepts and techniques described here prove to be very effective as a long-term nail-biting cure.
Alan B. Densky, CH is a recognized leader in the hypnosis field. Visit his hypnosis site for free hypnosis videos, and advice. He's perfected an all-inclusive seven-session self hypnosis for nail-biting program based on NLP and Ericksonian Hypnosis.