Lip biting can be hard to break since the action can become so automatic a person might not even be aware of it. However, it can be achieved.
It’s okay to bite your lip every once in a while. People who are unable to control their habits are said to have BFRBs (body-focused repetitive behaviors).
Chronic lip biting falls under the category of “other specified obsessive-compulsive and related disorders,” specifically BFRB, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
There is a big difference between BFRBs and people who just exhibit a behavior occasionally, such as lip biting. These behaviors cause distress or interfere with the ability of the individual to function for those with BFRBs.
They can be severe or mild. As opposed to cutting, BFRBs are not considered self-mutilation. People who have BFRBs aren’t intentionally harming themselves despite some of them causing bodily harm.
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What causes lip biting?
- Age: BFRBs are most common among adolescents aged 11 to 15.
- Sex: BFRBs are more common in women than in men.
BFRBs can also be affected by temperature and the environment.
BFRBs are typically not related to trauma or psychological problems, according to the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.
Lip biting can also be caused by a dental condition and occur accidentally. Examples include:
When your bite is misaligned, it is known as malocclusion. This may increase your likelihood of biting your lip.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
TMJ disorders are characterized by pain and dysfunction of the jaw joint. That is the joint that connects your skull to your jaw. People can also bite their lips accidentally when this joint is involved.
These disorders are characterized by repetitive, harmful touches to the hair or body. Approximately three percent of the population is thought to suffer from BFRB problems according to TLC Foundation research. The number of undiagnosed cases remains high. Some of the other BFRBs are:
- Trichotillomania, Uncontrollable hair pulling.
- Excoriation disorder, Excessive skin picking.
- Onychophagia, chronic nail-biting.
- Chronic tongue chewing.
- Trichophagia, An urge to eat hair.
Symptoms of lip biting
Although compulsive lip biting may not cause side effects for some people, it can cause complications for others, such as:
- Bleeding on the lips
- Lip swelling or inflammation
- Lip redness
People who bite their lips may not be aware of the habit till they have already damaged their lips.
Diagnosing the underlying cause
Consult a dentist if you find yourself biting your lips accidentally. You can have a dental professional evaluate whether a dental condition might be causing you to bite your lip.
Seek out a mental health professional if you are biting your lips out of stress or pleasure. Their goal is to determine which treatment is best for you based on your symptoms and medical history.
Read: Cheek Biting Disorder
Lip biting treatment
The treatment for lip biting varies depending on the cause. Dental problems can be treated physically by addressing the underlying issue. Many people who bite their lips for psychological reasons benefit from counseling.
BFRB treatments include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT is recommended as an effective treatment by the TLC Foundation for BFRBs.
The goal of CBT is to identify why certain behaviors occur and then alter them using a step-by-step approach.
Further, it teaches people skills for changing their behavior and thinking in the future.
Habit reversal training (HRT)
One type of CBT is habit reversal training. It is particularly effective in treating BFRBs and tics.
The three main steps of HRT are:
- Teaching people to be aware of their habits.
- When someone feels the urge to bite their lip, he or she can come up with an alternative response, which is a different action.
- Assisting someone in overcoming their anxiety habits by providing social support.
Read: Tongue Biting Disorder
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
Lip biting can also be treated with dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Anxiety may be a problem for people with BFRBs. Body-focused behaviors may be treated with this therapy.
This therapy has four aspects:
- Distress tolerance
- Emotion regulation
- Interpersonal effectiveness
Other behavioral therapies that can treat BFRBs include acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and the Comprehensive Behavioral Model of Treatment (ComB). These are both relatively new and more research is necessary to confirm their effectiveness.
BFRBs are generally treated better with CBT and HRT than with medication. Specific medication is not available for treating BFRBs.
It is possible that some people may benefit from taking an antidepressant and anti-obsessive medications, including clomipramine and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
If a person suffers from anxiety, depression, or OCD while engaging in BFRBs, medication may be useful.
Complications of lip biting
It is possible for lip biting to lead to complications when it is persistent. Among these are:
- Painful sores
- Mental stress, like feeling helpless or guilty
How to prevent lip biting
A healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, breathing exercises, and other choices that help manage stress can help prevent BFRBs. Practicing mindfulness and redirecting repetitive behaviors may also help when faced with repetitive behaviors.
The recurrence of BFRBs is also important to keep in mind. If you have been successful in treating a BFRB, be aware of any symptoms that remain. It is usually possible to reapply previously effective techniques. It may be necessary to explore new treatment methods in some cases.
Related: How to Stop Trichotillomania
What’s the outlook of biting lips?
You shouldn’t be too concerned if you bite your lips occasionally. Although lip biting may not be harmful to most people, there are instances when it may be harmful. It is recommended that you seek professional help if you can’t stop biting your lips. Several options are available to help you quit and live a healthy and fulfilling life.