Understanding Tongue Chewing And Biting As A Sign Of OCD

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Is tongue chewing and biting a sign of OCD? 

You must be wondering, how do I tell if my tongue chewing or biting behavior is a sign of OCD, yet not much has been investigated on the topic to prove that?  Although body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs)¹ are distinct from OCD, the two are related because OCD might start as a mere BFRB that eventually becomes obsessive.

As the name implies, OCD² is a chronic disorder characterized by recurring obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are recurring and unwanted thoughts and behaviors, which are often triggered by anxiety and distress. Compulsions represent the behaviors and thoughts that tend to respond to the anxiety caused by obsessions.

It's possible to experience only obsessions or only compulsions. However, in most occurrences, individuals experience both, which in this case entails tongue chewing and biting. Also, an individual can have more than one BFRB, which could ultimately be narrowed down to a case of OCD. 

Ever wondered why you chew and bite your tongue?

Currently, the cause of tongue chewing and biting behavior, among other common BFRBs, is not well understood due to insufficient research. Nevertheless, one fact is that BFRBs are associated with other behavior-related disorders³ such as anxiety, impulsive control, and OCD.

This doesn't mean that tongue chewing and biting can be caused by the disorders. Instead, BFRBs can occur alongside the disorders. 

What are the risk factors for tongue chewing and biting OCD?

Genetics

Like many behavior-related disorders, tongue chewing and biting could be passed down a family tree. This can happen with an inheritance of certain obsessions and behaviors.

Biology

The brain structure and function, along with an individual's physical biology (such as jaw and teeth alignment), could result in tongue chewing and biting. Being an issue that involves the nervous system, it means that individual thoughts and perceptions could result in such body-focused repetitive behavior.

Environment

Environmental factors, such as infections, stress, or trauma, could result in anxiety, which is a major cause for some impulsive human behaviors that eventually become an addiction.  

Diagnosis  of tongue chewing and biting as a sign of OCD

Because BFRBs have minimal research support, medical professionals are more likely to misdiagnose them. Most of these healthcare practitioners perceive BFRBs as signs and symptoms of OCD. Either way, it's critical to note that BFRBs are all categorized as obsessive-compulsive and related disorders.

In a specific study⁴ involving 4,335 college students, they were tested on BFRBs habits, and more than 59 percent of the students occasionally performed some BFRBs. About 12 percent of the students portrayed compulsive recurrence of BFRBs, meaning their behavior implied they could have the disorder.

Although BFRBs are common and harmless⁵ in most individuals, some might recognize that they are engaging in the behaviors while others might not. Either case, visiting a medical professional early is important since this BFRB could lead to more problems. 

How to break the habit of tongue chewing and biting

Every individual has different reasons for developing certain habits, especially when it comes to anxiety and how to deal with life pressures. Oftentimes, therapists try to diagnose and help individuals with BFRBs by using various compulsive disorders and anxiety therapy⁶ methods. However, the success rate of these therapies has been significantly inconsistent.

In breaking this habit, people need individualized care. Before you settle on the specific treatment to follow, consider the factors that caused the behavior. This will make it more effective to choose what treatment to follow and how it should be delivered since treatment becomes responsive when the BFRB is better understood.

What treatment options do you have?

Anti-anxiety pills and antidepressants

These are common treatments to lower stress-related tongue chewing and biting since most of these habits are associated with anxiety.

Psychotherapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy are the most common forms of psychotherapy to treat OCD. These therapies have been recommended worldwide.

Self-care

This is the simplest and most affordable treatment for tongue chewing and biting. 

Self-care includes: •    Personal stress management •    Maintaining a healthy diet •    Frequently self-examination •    Following the advice and guidance of your physician or doctor

Does tongue chewing and biting OCD go away?

Ironically, the answer to this question is both yes and no. If you chew or bite your tongue, ignoring the obsession will only elevate the distress it causes. Just like any other BFRB, compulsions will reduce the anxiety or distress of the tongue chewing and biting obsession, but only temporarily.

Nonetheless, tongue chewing and biting OCD can go away with proper therapeutic interventions. With distress and anxiety being one of the major causes, addressing such risk factors can significantly help eliminate the habit. 

The lowdown

Tongue chewing and biting are extremely common in individuals and don't pose a high risk. Although it could be distressful, it is highly manageable. Doctors and mental health practitioners often refer to body-focused repetitive behaviors as a sign of obsessive-compulsive behavior because some risk factors and effects are similar to OCD. 

If you suspect your tongue chewing and biting OCD is obsessive and/or compulsive, do not hesitate to consult a doctor for examination and treatment, if necessary.

Have you considered clinical trials for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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