I’m writing this because there’s not much out there about it. I was a chronic lip-biter from the age of around 6 to 18. When people think of lip-biting they think of people biting the outside of their lips, but that’s not accurate. We bite the inside of our lips, lower or upper, resulting in a mouth wound or ulcer.
Some studies say this is because of anxiety. I don’t think I suffered much anxiety at the age of 6. I can’t tell you why I did it. but I can tell you I seriously injured myself twice doing it. And I can tell you it felt good, and like the most natural thing in the world.
I’m writing this now, because I relapsed last night – probably the first time in 10 years or more. I did it infrequently in my 20s. maybe a couple of times in my 30s, and not at all in my 40s until last night. But the ritual is exactly the same as it was when I was a child.
When I was a child, I’d get a pressure build up in my upper lip when I’d run, and I’d have to bite my lip to release that pressure. The more constant trigger though was when I felt I had a cold or an illness coming on. I’d bite my middle-lower lip because my brain told me it would make me feel better.
My brain would guide my teeth to the exact spot that I had to bite to release the blood. Then I’d bite at it until I popped the membrane and could taste the blood. I’d suck on the wound for a minute or so then, to drain the blood, and my brain would instruct me how much more and which pattern I needed to bite to ease or heal the illness that was forthcoming.
The amount of pain sometimes almost causes a blackout. But you know, if you just bite that one spot, you won’t get ill. Eventually your brain tells you “that’s enough, you’re done now, you’ve done enough” and you stop biting. But that’s not the end of the ritual.
Within a couple of days a white membrane will form over the wound in the form of an ulcer, like a scab over a wound. You have to bite that off, too, suck away the blood, and let the wound heal open. You don’t have to eat the membrane. it’s not unpleasant, it just doesn’t matter. The idea is to never let a protective barrier form for the wound.
Cures such as Anbesol or Bongela sting in a good way when the wound is open. They feel amazing. Also dripping neat brandy onto the wound can recreate the ‘sting’ that will ease the mental torment.
The two times I seriously injured myself, I bit through to my gland – once when I was 18, once when I was 26. Those times were uncomfortable, and stopped some of the obsessive biting. but never completely cured it.
I’m very surprised I found myself doing it last night and that I couldn’t stop it. I can’t even remember the last time I did. But anyone else who bites their lips in a ritualistic manner, you’re not alone. I’m not sure if it counts as self-harm or not – I don’t think so, as I was doing it from such an early age – but maybe the pain and release cycle is linked.
Any other chronic lip biters, please do get in touch, and maybe we can work it out together.