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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Community
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Avatar universal

Compulsions...how to stop?

I don't perform rituals or have any common thoughts/anxieties associated with OCD. However, I regularly engage in picking and compulsive behaviors - seemingly always when I'm bored/unoccupied. There are two behaviors that I switch off between: Picking at my scalp and trying to bite the papillae off of my tongue. I know it's weird... I've looked around online, but I can't seem to find hardly anyone who shares this second behavior! I'm very confused as to why I do these things and can't remember when or why I started.
The second behavior is painful - and I recognize that it's painful - but it feels satisfying somehow. I usually engage in these behaviors when I'm not fully occupied (not quite "bored", but not quite fully engaged). For example, when I'm watching a movie/TV show, reading a book, doing homework, surfing the internet, etc. It gives me the feeling of having "something to do". I just can't sit still and concentrate on a single activity, so I unconsciously start doing these things. I'm even biting my tongue as I type this, for god's sake! Then...if a swollen taste bud/papillae forms from the initial biting (which it usually does), it irritates me so much that I have to remove it with further biting/picking/whatever it takes!
I've been doing these things for years...maybe over a decade (and I'm only 20). I can continue to do them, because they're not easily noticeable by others and have little consequence. But I really just want to stop. I can't say how many times I've tried - so many. But I just can't seem to. I might go for a week without doing anything, and then, when I'm spacing out, I'll pick up the behaviors unconsciously. It's so frustrating... =(
50 Responses
585414 tn?1288944902
That could be ocd and it is worth speaking to a psychiatrist about. Besides medication and talk therapy cognitive behavioral therapy works in addition.
Avatar universal
Hi, Emily. The 'biting off papillae' thing does appear to be uncommon or under-reported as far as 'nervous habits' go... which is why I'm glad to see your post. I've struggled with OCD for 19 years, and the tongue-biting thing is one of the manifestations of my condition, in addition to trichotillomania (hair-plucking).  Like yourself, I lack the other  thought/behaviour patterns that typify OCD. In my experience, neither psychotherapy nor medicine ever helped. Maybe they will work for you. Try to be vigilant against these self-destructive behaviours and you may find you have more control over them. I know it's frustrating.
Avatar universal
Hey. I'm biting my tongue, too. It started over ten years ago (I'm 29 now) when I was in pain after having a root canal treatment. Since then I've been biting off my papillae, on and off. Sometimes I even clip them off between one of my fingernails and a tooth until I have bloody patches all over my tongue. I have a long history of self-destructive behaviours and always when I had managed to abandon one it didn't take long for something else to come up. The only thing that works for me is my own will. Even though it's really, really hard to kick a bad habit, sooner or later you'll need to take control of yourself. I've succeeded in getting rid of several compulsions so far, but not of all. I just wanted to add myself to the list of tongue-biting people out there.
Avatar universal
I am constantly biting the skin in my lower lip, upper lip and cheeks.  Its almost subconscious at this point.  I have had OC's in the past that were extremely annoying because they never ended.  Light switch on and off 50 times, etc.  

After a few years of this I finally got pissed because deep down I knew this meant nothing.  In fact, I got so mad I said to myself I was stopping and I did.  

I do catch myself every once in a while doing something odd like that, but for the most part I am done.  Mind over matter is the bottom line.
Avatar universal
Hi Emily, I've had the same problem biting (and also picking) my tongue since I was a child, I'm 19 now, and I have done it since I was around 8. It's like I don't realise when I start, but once I have I find myself concentrating on picking or biting at particular spots on my tongue, usually at the front/centre. I have found that literally sucking on my tongue sometimes helps, but the problem with this is that it only seems to feel satisfying after I have been biting at it "/
Good luck trying to find a way to stop it, please write back if you do as I'd like to stop too!
Avatar universal
Hi Emily, I've had the same problem biting (and also picking) my tongue since I was a child, I'm 19 now, and I have done it since I was around 8. It's like I don't realise when I start, but once I have I find myself concentrating on picking or biting at particular spots on my tongue, usually at the front/centre. I have found that literally sucking on my tongue sometimes helps, but the problem with this is that it only seems to feel satisfying after I have been biting at it "/
Good luck trying to find a way to stop it, please write back if you do as I'd like to stop too!
Avatar universal
I'm a 60 year old care giver-10 years and counting. When my father died in 2006 I thought it would be easier to take care of only one person, my mother, who imo is a malignant narcissist, but I was wrong. I developed severe folliculitis on both legs which was helped a great deal by laser hair removal, unfortunately I still have stripes of sores on both legs which nothing helps.I admit to being a picker. In addition my hair thinned out significantly as well. I'm under significant stress and this skin affliction is making my woes worse.

When I was in my 20's I saw a Boston physician named Dr. Winikoff, who successfully treated my compulsive face picking with hypnotherapy. Another doctor treated a stubborn plantar wart with hypnosis, which cleared up within a week of session one. I would like to find someone in the Boston area who does dermatological hypnotherapy. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.
Avatar universal
Hi I am 24 and have been biting the insides of my lips,cheeks and tongue for atleast 10 years now. Once I start and it hurts I just cannot stop to the point where the front of my tongue is completely bloody and red. After a biting session I pour salt on the end of my tongue and see how long i can keep it there through the pain and then after that I am able to stop myself for a while. I am not into self harm or anything I just cant control it. I also used to have to smell my hands after everything i touched no matter what I just had to smell the difference on my hands after touching everything. Just thought I would share..
Avatar universal
I thought I was the only one, I bite my cheeks and the bottom lip area and I pop the bumps on my face when irretated.. But I bite my tounge too, I just found out its called the (papillae).. Im a normal person, i dont take any medication or go to any doctors i just do it and i dont know why. I've done this for at least 15years and I'm 25 now... It was really bad during my teenage years I felt like I was biting my tounge off, it hurt but I could never stop doing it. I told myself I wanted to stop, and I just tried really hard not to do it and I stopped for awhile and it just came back today. And Im thinking maybe something is wrong with me, I'm trying to do some research to see why I do these things. I'm happy to see I'm not the only one, but I still haven't found any explanation as to why it happens. I don't think I have OCD, I don't plan on taking any medication... But like the comment from Dury, Bob234, and LearnFromMistakes I truely think thats the cure, it's hard but it's definitely a mind over matter thing and being vigilant to just stop. I gonna try harder.
Avatar universal
Emily I can relate to what you are experiencing...I catch myself biting my tongue entirely too often, I'd do it while performing certain tasks.  Sometimes while playing music instruments, using a power drill, or simply doing various types of studying/homework throughout the years.  Fortunately I haven't done it to the extent where it physically hurt me, but is still of concern.  A professional suggested to chew gum instead.  I find myself rather unimpressed with that suggestion.

I must agree with learnfrommistakes, mind over matter!

Remember to grow and improve yourself each day.  Invest in you!
Avatar universal
I also bite the papillae off of my tongue. I am 25 and I have been doing it since I was about 8-10 years old. It's like a texture thing for me. I only bite the side of my tongue papillae off and I try to stop, but then it feels uneven and they turn white because they're trying to heal, but I immediately bite the white stuff off. It's irritating. I brush my tongue so hard, just so that it looks normal in case anyone sees it. I wish I knew what caused it. I think it's just a nervous habit, no different than biting nails. I bit my nails so bad in the past that they would bleed. I got a pedicure once and they told me how bad my nails looked and I never bit them again. Now I have beautiful fingernails, but its like double time on my tongue now! I bit my nails if I was bored, nervous, i thought one was uneven...etc. I bite the papillae for the same reasons. Its just a nervous habit. We need to kick it on our own--it's just proving more challenging than it seems. Good luck to you! I feel what you're going through
Avatar universal
Hi Emily. I also bite my tongue. I am 38 and don't even know when it started because it was so long ago. I notice that in addition to being "bored" I do it WAY more a few days before my period. I think it is a form of OCD and that hormone fluctuations can exacerbate these tendencies. They say that progesterone levels drop drastically right before and right after your period causing all kinds of symptoms including OCD. I don't know if you have these issues or not. But keeping a diary of when this happens and the severity may help.
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