Yeah, dying is scary but have you ever thought about your nail falling off?

March 31, 2020 — by Amanda Zhu

Irrational fears originate in strange places and for strange reasons

 One morning while I was in great need of a burst of energy, I poured my Starbucks VIA Instant Coffee packet into my mug and added hot water from my kettle. While waiting for my coffee to cool down, I cleaned up my mess and opened the drawer to put the rest of the coffee packets back. My finger hit the side of the counter, and I felt my natural nail slightly bend. 

I froze, terrified.

Former president Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 

Clearly, FDR never experienced the feeling of a nail bending more in one direction than it ever should. 

I know my fear is irrational, but unlike some other fears, it is very possible for fingernails to fall off. After I described my fear to some of my friends, they did not believe that it’s possible for an entire nail to fall off. 

We researched and discovered that although it is more common for onycholysis to occur — a condition where the nail partially detaches from the nail bed — it is also possible for the nail to completely fall off if there is enough force applied to it.

Reading through various Reddit threads only further solidified my fear as I encountered horror stories of people’s nails falling off after dropping bricks or slamming doors on their feet or being stomped on by cleats.  

Although my nail has never fallen off before, it still feels like a real possibility, especially when mundane activities such as picking up my backpack or organizing clothes bend my nail marginally forward. The few times my toe has become numb after stubbing it against a desk or a bed frame have also instilled fear in me of the possibility of my nails falling off.

Despite this fear, I have no trouble with having acrylics or with the length of my nails. I read that some people with the same fear cut their nails often to be unreasonably short so it is impossible for their nails to break. Unlike them, I am completely fine with getting acrylics and am not afraid of the common outcome of people’s real nails breaking alongside the acrylic nail. 

I really don’t have any justification for not being scared of this, but I guess that’s what makes my specific fear irrational. 

I don’t know how I got this fear or if there is even a name for it. All I know is that I have to live with constantly being paranoid about something that may never happen. 

But hey, if your nail ever falls off, I told you so!


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