Biting of cheeks is a type of body-focused repetitive behavior characterized by constant biting of one’s inside cheeks. If one finds themselves biting the inner cheek frequently and even incurring injuries, then that may be a cause for concern. Constant cheek biting is an involuntary act often caused by anxiety or stress. Let’s review some of the ways you can manage this behavior.
Causes of Cheek Biting
Several causes can lead you to bite the inside of your cheek. In most cases, it will have a trigger despite it being an involuntary act. Most individuals struggling with anxiety may highlight this as their trigger, however, there are several other underlying causes such as:
- Boredom — Staying idle sometimes means you have pent-up energy which may be transferred to biting your cheek.
- Nervous habit — We often develop such obsessive-compulsive behaviors when we are anxious about something.
- Deep thought — Biting your inner cheek may occur subconsciously when you are thinking hard about something, mostly because you are unaware of your actions.
- Oral fixation —A psychological concept that involves the urge for constant oral stimulation. Biting the inside of your cheeks may be a result of this fixation.
- Dry mouth — Often leads to discomfort and irritation which may prompt an individual to bite their cheek to relieve the dryness.
It is essential to understand that the causes of cheek biting vary for every individual in order to properly treat the condition.
Tips to Stop Biting Your Inside Cheeks
The damage from cheek biting is often severe and can cause canker sores which are painful and often cause discomfort, especially when eating. It can also cause feelings of helplessness since one is not in control of their emotions and actions. The feeling of helplessness might lead to depression. Here are some ways to manage the condition.
Identify the Triggers
The best way to manage cheek-biting is to first learn your triggers. If you want to identify your triggers, you will have to be more observant about the moment you start biting the inside of your cheek and the reasons behind it. Take note of the events that precede you biting your cheek and if specific emotions are triggering the behavior. Once you find your triggers, it will be much easier to manage the condition.
Finding stress management techniques is also essential since stress is often the underlying cause. Healthy stress management techniques can involve practicing mindfulness therapy. Mindfulness therapy helps you beat the urge to indulge in self-soothing behaviors including biting the inside of your cheeks. Most mindfulness practices often involve yoga or meditation. Mindfulness therapy also makes you more aware of your actions, making it easier to notice when you are biting your inner cheek so you can turn your attention to another task.
Chew Gum or Healthy Snacks
The main objective of managing this condition should be finding activities to distract your mind from constantly thinking of biting the cheek. Crunchy snacks and chewing gum can provide a similar sensation to the one you feel when biting your cheek. Therefore, replacing it with healthy bites will reduce the harm caused to your inner cheek and help you work on managing the behavior as well. You can store fresh chewing gum in easily accessible locations, such as your purse and pockets.
A dry mouth often results in an urge to bite your lips and inside cheeks. Therefore, drinking water keeps your mouth hydrated and reduces the urges.
Find other Habits
One way to manage your BFRB is to find another behavior to substitute it. However, take care to ensure that the substitute behavior is a healthier alternative. Some of the healthy behaviors you can adopt include squeezing a stress ball, tapping your fingers, or any other activity that takes your mind away from thinking about biting your inner cheeks.
Keeping yourself busy may inhibit the urge to bite your inner cheeks since sometimes one may find themselves biting the inner cheek due to idleness. Some of the ways to stay busy include reading a book and playing musical instruments. Finding new hobbies will keep one busy for a while as one tries to recover from this body-focused repetitive behavior.
Develop an Oral Care Routine
An oral care routine keeps our mouth healthy, especially if you have developed sores from biting the inside of your cheeks. Oral hygiene helps you avoid bacterial infection on the wounds incurred when biting your cheeks. Open wounds often harbor breeding grounds for bacteria which negatively impact your overall oral health. Some of the must-haves in your oral routine include mouthwash and fluoride toothpaste that will keep your mouth fresh and healthy. If left untreated, the sores can be painful and cause discomfort.
Seek Professional Help
If the symptoms are severe or if you can’t resist the urge to keep biting your cheeks, then it is best to seek professional help. Since the condition is often a result of mental health conditions such as anxieties, it is best to seek help from a therapist. A professional therapist will help you identify ways to manage anxiety triggers and stress which are common underlying causes. Once you manage to get a hold of your feelings and emotions, then it will be much easier to do away with the body-focused repetitive behavior.
Habit Reversal Training
Habit training is also a therapeutic practice meant to deal with severe symptoms of inner cheek biting. This type of therapy involves identifying one’s triggers and replacing them with healthier behaviors. Individuals are trained on how to monitor an urge or sensation before a tic. Once you learn about the sensations you feel before biting your cheek you can try and resist the urge by countering the sensation using other healthier behaviors. The four stages of habit reversal training include:
- Awareness training.
- Counter response training.
- Motivation of habit control and compliance.
- Relaxation training.
Under relaxation training, you will learn how to manage your condition by avoiding unnecessary tension that can lead you to bite your inner cheeks.
Some may consider cheek-biting a harmless habit, but when it is repetitive it becomes serious. It is a sign of a mental health condition, mostly caused by stress and anxiety. Chronic cheek biting is classified under body-focused repetitive behaviors, similar to trichophagia and lip biting. If you or a loved one strugglese with innere cheek biting, do not hesitate to seek professional guidance.