Author Archives: Siana Lai

Is nail biting a sign of perfectionism?

Next time someone tells you to stop biting your nails, tell them to stop boring you! A new study has found that people prone to body-focussed repetitive behaviours may be perfectionists.

nail biting

Biting your nails might mean you’re a perfectionist
credits to: flickr

Body-focussed repetitive behaviours are a group of behaviours where an individual causes damage to themselves. Examples of these behaviours include biting nails, hair pulling, and biting the inside of their cheek. Individuals can spend hours doing these activities, taking away from their day. Engaging in these behaviours can lead to psychological symptoms like depression, shame, and isolation.

In this study, the researchers looked at 24 people that exhibited body-focussed repetitive behaviours and a control group of 24 people that did not exhibit these behaviours. The participants were first screened through a telephone interview then completed questionnaires to evaluate emotions including boredom, anger, and guilt, to name a few. Then, the participants were experimentally exposed to four different situations, designed to provoke different emotions: stress, relaxation, frustration, and boredom.

The researchers found that in the boredom and frustration situations, the participants that had a history of body-focussed repetitive behaviours reported a greater urge to engage in these behaviours than control participants. Moreover, none of the participants felt the urge to perform these behaviours in the relaxation situation. Kieron O’Connor, the principal investigator has stated “We believe that individuals with these repetitive behaviours maybe perfectionistic, meaning that they are unable to relax and to perform task at a ‘normal’ pace.  They are therefore prone to frustration, impatience, and dissatisfaction when they do not reach their goals. They also experience greater levels of boredom.”


Perfectionism can lead to depression.
credits to: Flickr

This new research falls in line with what we already know about perfectionism and its detrimental effects on people. A study has shown that perfectionism can lead to anxiety, depression, and may even be a risk factor for suicide. In fact, two separate studies have looked at the link between perfectionism and suicide. The first study found that when conducting interviews with the loved ones of people that had recently killed themselves, more than half of the deceased were described as perfectionists without prompting. The second study found that more than 70% of 33 men that committed suicide placed exceedingly high expectations on themselves, a trait associated with perfectionism.

It doesn’t take much to imagine why perfectionists are driven to self harm so often. The impossibly high standards that they hold for themselves means that they aren’t happy even when they achieve success. It has been suggested that anxiety over making a mistake may be what is holding them back from success. Research has confirmed that the most successful people in any given field are less likely to be perfectionistic. Imagine having a surgeon that had to be absolutely sure about each cut before making it, their patients would spend much longer on the table, increasing their chance of death.

Check out this TED talk all about perfectionism:

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– Siana Lai

Three-Parent Babies

Last month, the United Kingdom voted to legalize “three-parent babies.” They are the first country to allow this procedure and within a year, the first of these babies will be born.


Mitchondrial replacement can prevent mitchondrial disease from being passed on to future generations
Photo courtesy of Flickr

These babies will have three parents in an attempt to eradicate mitochondrial disease. In short, this disease is caused by mutations in the mitochondrial DNA which in turn leads to insufficient energy for the cell’s survival. The death of cells causes the organs to fail ultimately leading to death. This illness is passed through the mother to her children. There are three traditional choices for mothers with this disease that hope to have children. They can adopt a child, use a donor egg, or become pregnant and at 11 weeks have the fetus tested for mitochondrial disease. At that point, they can choose to terminate the pregnancy. However, there is new hope on the horizon for prospective mothers in the United Kingdom that have this disease. The government recently legalized a method of three-person in-vitro fertilization, mitochondrial donation.


There are two methods of mitochondrial DNA replacment, maternal spindle transfer and pronuclear transfer.
Photo courtesy of Flickr

There are two different methods of mitochondrial donation. The first is named maternal spindle transfer where the repair is completed before fertilization. An egg is taken from both the mother and the donor and both the nuclei are removed. Next, the mother’s nucleus is kept and inserted into the donor’s egg while the donor’s nucleus is destroyed. Then, the donor egg containing the mothers nucleus and healthy mitochondria is fertilized with the father’s sperm. Finally, the egg is implanted back into the mother.

The other method of fertilization is named pronuclear transfer. In this procedure, the repair is done after fertilization. First, an egg is taken from both the mother and the donor. Then, they are fertilized with the father’s sperm. Before the eggs have a chance to replicate, the chromosomes from each egg are taken out. Next, the donor ones are thrown out and the donor egg is filled with the mother’s chromosomes. Finally, the egg is implanted in the mother.

There are many ethical concerns attached to this issue causing countries including Canada to hold back on legalizing this procedure. In Canada, this specifically has to do with the fear of opening the doors to designer babies. Not only are designer babies horrifically dystopian and Brave New World-esque, it may also decrease the natural variability of the human race, something that is required for the race to survive and adapt. However, changing a baby’s mitochondrial DNA is a far cry from creating designer babies. The procedure has no effect on their hair or eye colour and it isn’t enhancing them in any way. In fact, the change affects less than 1% of the baby’s total genome.

Other ethical concerns include “germline” genetic engineering, the fact that one of the embryos are destroyed in the pronuclear transfer and that we are unsure of this procedure’s effects on humans. Even with these concerns, this procedure is worth it if we can eradicate a painful disease affecting millions.

Check out this video by Elliot M. that sums up mitochondrial replacement:

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– Siana Lai