How To Stop Anxious Lip Biting
How to Stop Biting Your Lips
You might bite your lips casually when you're nervous, or you might compulsively chew them. Like blinking too often or picking your nails, it's probably something you unconsciously start doing when stress begins to build up, and you need an outlet. If you've gotten into the habit, however, you might bite enough to cause chapped lips, bleeding, or scarring, and you might feel unable to stop on your own. For mild cases, use a combination of simple habit-breaking techniques. For compulsive biting or chewing, visit a doctor and a therapist as soon as you can.
Breaking the Habit
Anticipate your biting.Notice when you bite, and reflect on how you feel. You might have the habit of biting your lips when you're feeling anxious, or bored. Tell yourself when you are about to enter a situation that might prompt biting, so you will be on the alert.
- In many cases, biting is just one of several physical signs that you're feeling anxious. Other signs include shallow breathing, a faster heartbeat, blushing and sweating. When you feel one of these other symptoms, be ready to stop yourself from biting.
Use the competing response technique.When you feel the urge to bite, do something else that makes it impossible. Lick your lips, or rub a finger across them. Lightly bite a pencil or small cushion, or do something that makes it impossible to bite, such as breathing with your mouth open, speaking, or singing. This technique is used to treat deeply engrained compulsions, along with relaxation techniques and cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Try this routine: when you want to bite, breathe deeply from your diaphragm for 60 seconds, relax your muscles one by one, then use your competing response for 60 seconds.
- Substitute other movements, such as pursing your lips, chewing gum, whistling, or yawning. Remember not to touch your lips or face, as this can be unsanitary and cause later problems, such as pesky acne!
- Ask your doctor or therapist for advice on developing your competing response technique. The same moves don't work for everyone.
Block your bites.Wearing an unpleasant-tasting lip balm can help remind you not to bite your lips. Try a medicated one meant to cure chapped lips or block the sun. If you are training yourself to lick instead of biting, try wearing a sweet-tasting lip balm. The taste and smell of the balm will help you think about licking your lips instead of biting. You can also apply the lip balm or lipstick when you have the urge to bite.
- Rub a little mentholated lip conditioner right below your nose as a reminder.
- If you are in a situation that triggers your lip biting, try sucking on hard candy, chewing gum, or wearing a mouth guard.
Addressing the Cause
Visit your doctor.A doctor can help you isolate the cause of your biting, or can refer you to a specialist. Serious chewing and biting that causes bleeding, scarring or another damage to your lip or mouth requires medical attention. Lip biting is often a symptom of anxiety, but it can also be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB).
- Lip biting can be a tic. These are most common in young men and often disappear without treatment after a few months. A doctor can help you eliminate other possible causes.
- Ask your dentist about acquiring a mouth guard for help with lip biting, chewing, and clenching. If you tend to bite at night or during sedentary activities such as reading, watching television, or studying, these can be extremely helpful.
Seek the help of a therapist.Whether you bite your lips due to anxiety or a severe compulsion, getting therapy is more effective than medication. Your therapist will likely train you in habit reversal. This will involve mindfulness techniques, relaxation techniques, and competing response techniques. Ask for a referral for a therapist with experience treating compulsions and anxiety.
- Ask your therapist about cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on the relationships between thoughts and behaviors.
- Support groups can also be helpful, especially if you don't know other people who understand what you're going through.
Talk with a psychiatrist about anxiety medication.If nothing seems to be helping, you may have an anxiety disorder that could be mitigated with medication. Generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other anxiety disorders don't always respond to talk therapy. Depending on your diagnosis and health profile, a psychiatrist might prescribe a medication to treat your anxiety.
- This might include an antidepressant, such as medications in the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) drug class.
- You might be prescribed Buspirone, a medication formulated specifically to treat anxiety, or Benzodiazepines, which are sedatives prescribed to treat severe cases.
- Not all causes of lip biting respond to medication. BFRB, for example, responds best to habit reversal, with medications only prescribed for co-morbid conditions.
Stopping Accidental Bites
See a dentist to get your teeth checked.In some cases, biting is triggered by the structure of your mouth. If your teeth are misaligned, your body might be unconsciously trying to realign them by placing your lips between them. If you have an overbite or another type of misalignment that you think might be causing your biting, see a dentist so you can discuss how to fix it.
- A dentist will be able to let you know whether misalignment is a factor in your biting. Treatments may include getting braces or a retainer to correct the issue. Once your teeth are aligned, you should stop biting.
Ice your wounds.If you bite down on your lip or cheek by accident, you might create a lump. It can be difficult to avoid biting down on the protrusion as it heals. To help prevent repeated accidental bites, ice your bump on and off until the swelling subsides. Put a wedge of cloth in your mouth during sedentary activities to prevent mindless accidental biting.
Chew wisely.You might accidentally bite yourself if you eat quickly or have a misaligned jaw. Like another accidental biting, one bite can put you at risk for repeated and increasingly painful bites. If you bite your lip or cheek while chewing, give your mouth time to heal. Eat soft foods like yogurt, applesauce, and soup for a few days until the swelling goes down.
Practicing Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques
Practice deep breathing.Deep breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, helps you relax both physically and mentally. Research has shown that using this technique during times of stress helps alleviate symptoms of stress like lip biting and other bad habits. When you feel the urge to bite your lips, try doing this instead:
- Sit up straight so that your torso is perpendicular to the ground.
- Take slow, controlled breaths that fill your abdomen. You should feel your stomach moving in and out. If your chest is moving up and down, you're breathing is too shallow. Focus on breathing deeper.
- Continue deep breathing until you feel relaxed and no longer want to bite your lips.
- Deep breathing is commonly included as a step in habit reversal techniques.
Practice progressive muscle relaxation.This is another physical technique with profound mental effects. It takes several minutes to complete. Do this technique in times of great stress to resettle yourself and stop the urge to bite your lips. Like deep breathing, this is also a common step in habit reversal techniques.
- Tense the muscles in your arms as hard as you can. Breathe in deeply and hold your muscles tight for five seconds.
- Exhale and release the tension at the same time. Stay completely relaxed for 15 seconds.
- Choose another muscle group to tense for five seconds. Try your legs, torso, buttocks or jaw. Continue alternating between tensing and relaxing until you've gotten to all the main muscle groups.
- Keep going until the urge to bite your lips passes. You may need to rotate between muscle groups for up to fifteen minutes.
Practice mindfulness.Mindfulness is the act of being fully in the present. When you pay more attention to your body and how it feels, you'll be less likely to bite your lips absent-mindedly. Mindfulness takes a bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it you can use this technique anytime, anywhere to great effect.
- When you feel anxious, immediately focus on your five senses. What do you see in front of you? What do you taste in your mouth? What do you hear around you? What do you feel with your hands? What do you smell in the air?
- Keep focusing on your physical state until you ride out the anxious thoughts.
- If you're having trouble focusing, try the quick trick of looking at your hands while you clasp them together. This will help to ground you in your body immediately.
Easing Anxiety with Healthy Living
Eat wholesome foods.Eating nutritious meals at regular intervals can help you stay calm and feel safe.Eat a broad range of foods to get the nutrients your body needs.Eat fruits and vegetables every day, and make sure you don't skip your carbohydrates or protein.
- Replace alcohol and caffeine with water. Alcohol and caffeine both have properties that can increase anxiety.
Exercise.Regular exercise releases endorphins that increase your sense of well-being and reduce stress.Exercise will boost your mood and help you sleep. If you don't have a regular exercise routine, try going for a brisk half-hour walk each day.
Get a good night's sleep each night.Anxiety interferes with sleep, and lack of sleep makes anxiety worse. Try to stop this unhealthy cycle by sleeping on a set schedule, keeping your bedroom peaceful and free of electronics, and avoiding food for several hours before bed.Adults need 7-8 hours of sleep a night, with as few interruptions as possible. Kids and teenagers need 9-11 hours.
Consider alternative medicine treatments.Some people have good results trying alternative medicine treatments. If you're interested in trying one of these treatments, speak with your regular doctor before replacing or altering any of his or her recommendations. They might be able to help you find alternative treatments, such as meditation and yoga, that compliment and extend the relaxation techniques you have been prescribed.
- Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese practice of inserting needles into specific points of the body. There is increasing evidence that acupuncture can be a helpful treatment for anxiety.
- Studies have shown that yoga and meditation are both helpful when it comes to treating both physical and mental symptoms of anxiety.
QuestionI'm at school all day and I cannot use chewing gum during class, which is when I bite my lip the most. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you feel that this is a serious issue, then you should speak to a trusted adult who will be able to help. If you bite your lip when you are nervous or excited, I would suggest using a fidget, such as a stress ball or some slime (which you can make or buy on Etsy). If you bite your lips because your lips are dry and irritated, put some Chapstick on. You can buy bad-tasting Chapstick if neither of these options apply to you or don't work.Thanks!
QuestionI had a habit of biting my lips and now a permanent protrusion has appeared on my lower lip. I have stopped the biting but the bump is still there. What can I do?Top AnswererYou should go to a doctor for advice on how to treat this.Thanks!
QuestionI have been biting and peeling off my lips with my nails for almost 8-9 years. What should I do?Leyla JeenaCommunity AnswerUsing a stress ball or any kind of small toy for your hands to be occupied with can distract your hands from peeling your lips. Chewing gum or sucking on candy can help too.Thanks!
QuestionI had a very bad paranoid episode and couldn't stop chewing on my lips and the inside of my cheeks. I almost chewed through the corner of my mouth, and was literally drinking my own blood. Advice?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt sounds like you could benefit from talking to a doctor or therapist about your paranoia. Your doctor can give you a referral.Thanks!
QuestionI'm really young, so I can't buy lip balm, and I don't want to tell my parents. But my lips are bleeding. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou need to just tell your parents. They won't mind getting you some lip balm.Thanks!
QuestionIn the middle of my bottom lip, it's split and bleeding, and has been for a week. What do I do for it to get better?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerWash it thoroughly, make a mixture of honey, salt and lemon to get rid of bacteria (the inside of the lip is exposed and can easily turn very sore because of bacteria), then take a lip balm and apply every hour or so to mousturize the dry, exposed lip.Thanks!
QuestionEven if I put on lip balm, I still bite it; it has became a habit to me - what should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTry a lip balm that has a flavor that's unappealing to you. You could also distract yourself by chewing gum.Thanks!
QuestionI know I need to stop, but I can't. Any suggestions?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTry using lipstick. This might stop the urge to bite your lips because you don't want to eat the lipstick.Thanks!
QuestionI have been trying everything this is suggesting and my habit is still very bad. What else can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you get the urge to bite your lips, then try licking your lips, you can do it hard at first, then get softer as time goes on.Thanks!
QuestionI have ADHD so lip-biting is really just a stim. I don't have anxiety or anything, any tips?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThis has actually been becoming an issue for me as well. I suggest putting something bad tasting on your lips, so when you put your lip towards your mouth, it will make that taste go in, making a warning to not bite. I suggest Nail polish remover: put a bit on your finger, and rub it all over your lips. Mine was an accident last night and I stopped biting my lips.Thanks!
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