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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Identifying Bad Habits

02/09/2007

Question:

I am 28, married, no kids, have a good job and consider myself fairly well adjusted and happy. For years I have had a habit of chewing on the inside of my mouth, I`ll do this on and off all day. I`m not sure this has anything to do with a nervous habit but couldn`t find any information at all. Why do I do this and is it an indication of something wrong?. How do I stop?

Answer:

I think you answer your own question with your first sentence.  Most people have some nervous habits -- nail biting, pencil tapping, foot bouncing or, in your case, cheek chewing.  Nervous habits in and of themselves are not a problem.  Most of us use them to some degree or another, and sometimes they just become "habit" and aren't even associated with being nervous or stressed at all.  If your "nervous habit" starts interfering with your life or your health, then it is not OK.  It might be a more serious disorder like obsessive compulsive disorder.  However, if you consider yourself fairly well adjusted and happy, have basically good relationships with the people in your life, and are not causing physical damage to yourself or others with your habit, then it is not a serious problem.

(And many dentists will tell you that chewing on the inside of the cheek is very common thing that people do!!)

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati