Biting your lips: how to get rid of this habit

Many people occasionally bite their lip when they are anxious. However, for some people, lip biting can become a habit that impacts daily life. People who have this nervous habit may experience painful sores and redness on their lips. Lip biting can be a hard habit to break because the behavior can become so automatic that one may become unaware of it. However, there are effective ways to overcome this habit. Read on to learn about the causes of lip biting, similar anxious habits, and treatment options.

What causes lip biting?

In some cases, physical conditions can cause a person to bite their lips when using their mouth to speak or chew. In other cases, the cause may be psychological. People may bite their lips as a physical response to an emotional state, such as stress, fear or anxiety.

Physical causes

Psychological or physical causes can lead to lip biting.

Physical causes of lip biting include:

– Teeth alignment problems, known as malocclusion. These include overbite and underbite, which can lead to crowding of the teeth.

– Temporo Disorder -mandibular (TMD), which affects the muscles of mastication.

People with malocclusion or TMD can often bite their lips, cheeks or tongue. A dentist should be able to recommend treatment options, which may include braces or the extraction of one or more teeth.

Psychological causes

Chronic lip biting is an example of repetitive body-focused behavior, or CRCC. This term refers to any repetitive self-directed behavior that damages skin, hair or nails. Body-focused repetitive behavior is a coping mechanism in situations where a person feels uncomfortable or anxious. People with CRCC find that repetitive behaviors can relieve them of painful emotions.

Relatively few studies have looked at lip biting as a CRCC. Most research has instead focused on the three most common habits, which are:

– pulling your hair out, or trichotillomania

– tearing the skin, or excoriation

– biting the nails, or onychophagia

However, it is likely that there is an overlap in the psychology behind the different types of CRCC, including lip biting.

Research conducted suggests that just thinking about these habits can cause a person to take action, so just thinking about biting their lip can cause a person to bite themselves the lip. CRCCs begin at the onset of puberty, between 10 and 10 years. Research suggests that people who have close relatives who bite their lips are more likely to develop one themselves.

Symptoms of Lip Biting

Some people don’t have side effects from compulsive lip biting, but it does cause some complications for others, including

– painful sores on the lips

– inflammation or swelling of the lips

– lip redness

Lip biting is often a compulsive behavior, so a person may not notice this habit until the lips are already damaged.

Treatment of lip biting

Treatments for lip biting vary depending on the cause. It is possible to treat physical causes such as dental problems by fixing the underlying problem. When lip biting has a psychological cause, many people benefit from behavioral counseling or therapy.

Treatments for lip biting include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

People with TFRB or tics may benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a step-by-step approach that focuses on changing specific behaviors by identifying their causes. It also teaches skills that help a person change their behavior and thoughts in the future.

Habit Reversal Training (HRT)

Habit reversal training (HRT) is a type of CBT. It is particularly effective in the case of lip biting

HRT therapy consists of three key steps:

– awareness training , so that people notice their habit when it occurs

– create a competing response, i.e. a different action a person can do when they feel the urge to bite their lip

– provide support, which can be vital in helping a person overcome their anxiety habits.

Hypnosis and Meditation

Hypnosis can be particularly indicated for subjects whose anxiety is the cause of biting of the lips; In the same way, meditation sessions that lead to a release of tension and nervousness can bring real benefit.


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Gupta, S., & Gargi, PD (2012, May 10). Habit reversal training for trichotillomania. International Journal of Trichology, 4(1), 29–41

Morand-Beaulieu, S., O’Connor, KP, Richard, M., Sauvé, G., Leclerc, JB, Blanchet, PJ, & Lavoie, ME (2016, May 10). The impact of a cognitive–behavioral therapy on event-related potentials in patients with tic disorders or body-focused repetitive behaviors. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 7, 81

O ‘Connor, K., Lavoie, M., Desaulniers, B., & Audet, JS (2018, March). Cognitive psychophysiological treatment of bodily-focused repetitive behaviors in adults: An open trial. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 74(3), 285–285

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Presse Santé strives to transmit knowledge health in a language accessible to all. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES can the information given replace the advice of a health professional.

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