Lip Biting

Lip Biting

Lip biting is a chronic subconscious habit usually triggered by anxiety or other physical conditions such as malocclusion of the teeth. Individuals who experience this habit may have to deal with sore lips. Lip biting can be classified under obsessive-compulsive and other related disorders due to its similarity to conditions such as compulsive skin picking. It is a difficult habit to quit since, most of the time, one is not aware that they are biting their lip. Fortunately, it can be unlearned by developing a coping mechanism. 

Signs and Symptoms

Aside from the pain caused by biting the lip frequently, the symptoms of lip biting vary depending on how frequently one bites their lip. However, there are some common signs that will indicate if one bites their lip regularly. Individuals with Morsicatio buccarum behaviour spend a lot of time biting their lip and may find it hard to stop since, most times, it is done subconsciously. Some of the symptoms one is likely to experience include:

- Painful sores on the bitten areas, bleeding

- Redness and inflammation

- Soreness when eating or taking a drink

- Feeling guilty and anxious

- Constant scars

Biting of the lip causes trauma to the affected area and can result in its irregular texture, and one may find themselves biting their lip more to smoothen it. The condition may worsen should there be open wounds that might cause an infection. 

Why Does It Happen? 

Chronic lip biting occurs due to various reasons, and often the affected may not be conscious of their actions. The most common cause of lip biting is stress and anxiety. Depending on how frequently it occurs, it may range from being habitual to chronic. For some people, it may be a way to deal with tension, unbeknown to them that they are causing more harm. Studies have indicated that people dealing with stressful situations are more likely to bite their lips. Additionally, studies have also revealed that body-focused repetitive behaviours such as chronic lip biting can be inherited.

Most people make it a habit of biting their lips as a way of dealing with anxiety. For others, biting their lip can be frustrating, especially if they cannot control it. Unlike other motor ticks such as hair pulling and skin picking, not a lot of research has been done on lip biting to determine its correlation with anxiety and other emotions. Research done around this area has revealed that sometimes just thinking about biting one’s lip can lead to the action itself, so constant thoughts about lip biting can trigger habitual lip biting. This may translate into a chronic condition if not controlled. Additionally, individuals can develop the behaviour if someone around them does it regularly.

Aside from psychological causes, several physical causes can cause chronic lip biting. They include: 

  • Poor teeth alignment — Commonly referred to as malocclusion. These conditions include overbite, crossbite, overcrowded teeth and underbite. Such conditions may result in lip biting when one is talking, eating, or drinking.
  • Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) — This is also a physical disorder that causes disorder on the temporomandibular jaw, which can result in one accidentally biting their lip.

Types of Lip-biting

Lip biting is a body-focused repetitive behaviour that depends on one's triggers and their intensity. Here are some types of lip-biting tendencies:

Accidental — It is unintentional and can occur when one is eating, talking or engaging in a physical activity.

Constant accidental — If one constantly bites their lip accidentally, it can be due to a dental formula problem.

Sleep biting — Those who bite their lip when sleeping can use various appliances to help prevent it from occurring regularly.

Habitual lip biting — Those who bite their lips constantly; although they might be unaware of this behaviour.

Chronic lip biting — It is also known as Morsicatio buccarum, which happens when one cannot control the urge to keep biting their lip.

Types of Lip-biting

Lip biting is a body-focused repetitive behaviour that depends on one's triggers and their intensity. Here are some types of lip-biting tendencies:

Accidental — It is unintentional and can occur when one is eating, talking or engaging in a physical activity.

Constant accidental — If one constantly bites their lip accidentally, it can be due to a dental formula problem.

Sleep biting — Those who bite their lip when sleeping can use various appliances to help prevent it from occurring regularly.

Habitual lip biting — Those who bite their lips constantly; although they might be unaware of this behaviour.

Chronic lip biting — It is also known as Morsicatio buccarum, which happens when one cannot control the urge to keep biting their lip.

Impacts and Effects

Constant lip biting causes lip injury and ulcers, which can be painful and may affect daily livelihood, resulting to difficulty in eating or drinking. Some lip biters even have a “favourite” side to bite, which results in broken skin that feels raw and irregular on one side. Chronic lip biting can also cause overall body discomforts, including jaw pain and headaches.

The psychological effects of lip biting are usually severe since chronic lip bitters may feel guilty or ashamed about their self-inflicted injuries. Lip biters may go to great lengths to prevent people from seeing this body-focused repetitive behaviour, thus limiting their interaction. The guilt can also cause depression, especially if one is self-conscious about their appearance.

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 Treatment

Lip biting treatment depends on the cause and severity of the condition. Physical causes of lip biting often revolve around dental conditions, which results in lip biting as a means of coping with underlying dental issues. Fixing these underlying conditions can easily help eliminate lip biting. Psychological causes, on the other hand, may require more effort from an individual, such as checking into therapy. Some of the treatment methods for this type of body-focused repetitive behavior include: 

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy — Where one gets a step-by-step guide to changing this type of behavior. How to adopt positive behavior and thoughts.
  • Habit reversal training — This involves awareness training to help one notice their behaviors. It also helps to create a competing response, which makes it possible for one to adopt a different type of action whenever one feels like biting one's lip.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy — This is a technique used to manage various lip-biting causes, and it involves containing emotions such as stress and anxiety. It encompasses mindfulness, distress tolerance and emotional management.
  • Muscle relaxation — Sometimes anxiety is caused by the tension in our bodies; thus, practicing progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce anxiety and tension. 

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