Is Adult Thumb Sucking A Massive Issue? Here's What It Means

Last updated by Katie M.

In general, thumb sucking ends around the age of 6. I say “in general” and not “normally”, because as an adult I don’t feel weird or particularly bothered by it. When I get stressed, I allow myself to let go and return to my childhood self by sucking my thumb. Those who know about it or catch me by surprise make me realize I should be ashamed… But is this habit a big deal? What if it makes me feel better? It’s certainly no worse than lighting up a cigarette or biting your nails…

Is Adult Thumb Sucking A Massive Issue? Here's What It Means

Thumb sucking in adults, psychology? The effects of thumb sucking in adults.

What do you think about this habit?

If I suck my thumb, it’s to reassure myself

Nobody laughs when they see a baby separated from its mother or a young child left to cry on the pretext that you shouldn’t give into them. They have no other way of expressing themselves than crying. Seeing that it has no effect on those around them, they then turn to their thumb to reassure themselves and find the comfort they lack.

➡ Despite what others think, it’s just a comforting, soothing and reassuring ritual, a little cocoon I seek to recreate to protect myself. Some people bite their nails or play with their hair, others suck their thumb. Everyone has their own ritual. This one is less common and more childlike, which is why it’s frowned upon by society. But the aim of the action is the same: to reduce my anxiety.

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There’s nothing wrong with returning to your childhood

It’s often said that children are cruel to each other, but sometimes adults are no better. After a certain age, sucking your thumb is seen as something to be ashamed of, and is met with mockery. This gesture makes me look like a big baby and gives the image of a fragile, vulnerable person, who tends to withdraw into themselves.

However, there’s nothing wrong with going back to your childhood and taking refuge in your cocoon for a little while, just long enough to be carefree again and to reassure yourself. I’d like to know anyone who has never enjoyed watching a good old Walt Disney cartoon snuggled up under a blanket! Psychiatrists and psychoanalysts are quick to point out that it’s sometimes good to let go and allow yourself to regain a part of your childhood. As long as the means used to combat the stress are minor.

Mockery

But be careful not to regress into the Peter Pan syndrome, that keeps you locked up in a childlike world

In the end, sucking your thumb at any age isn't really a big deal

When you think about it, sucking your thumb is a healthier and less expensive addiction than smoking. It will make me less fat than if I stuffed my face with food as soon as I got stressed. So it’s neither a harmful habit nor a serious act! The problem is that sucking your thumb in public can be really embarrassing. The famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, like most people, said that “it’s primarily an act of autoerotic exhibition, hence the embarrassment of others who catch you in this intimate moment”. And what if I tried to reverse the situation?

🧠 I think first about my well-being. If it relaxes me, I don’t deprive myself of it because of teasing that’s even more childish than my act. I don’t hesitate to tell myself (or them!) that they’re the ones with the twisted minds!  

📍FAQ📍- What is behind adult thumb-sucking?

According to psychologists we consulted, thumb-sucking is simply seen as a comforting ritual, a little cocoon that one seeks to recreate for self-protection. In most cases, thumb-sucking is considered by these individuals as something very soothing and reassuring. It's a way to counteract stress or upsets. It evokes those small gestures that betray a certain nervousness, like biting nails or twirling hair... But thumb-sucking seems more "harmless" because it often occurs in an intimate context, rarely in public, and one seldom hurts oneself by sucking the thumb, unlike certain cases of excessive hair twirling or extreme nail-biting.

What are the side effects of thumb-sucking?

Prolonged thumb-sucking has consequences for oral health. Persistent sucking perpetuates infantile swallowing: the tongue adopts an incorrect, too-low position, both at rest and when swallowing saliva (1500 times a day on average). It moves forward between the upper and lower teeth or pushes on the incisors instead of coming up to rest on the palate to exert the lateral pressure necessary for the transverse development of the jaws. As a result, the upper and lower jaws are underdeveloped. The upper teeth are projected forward, and the lower lip tends to be positioned between the two dental arches, giving the child a peculiar physiognomy with a popular name: "rabbit teeth". In short, intense thumb-sucking leads to an imbalance of muscular forces, whereas it is the balance of muscular forces in the oral area (lips and tongue) that enables balanced development of the maxillae and correct positioning of the teeth.

>>> Discover why I always make the wrong decisions

The editor's opinion – The real problem is elsewhere

If you want to put an end to this nasty habit, body therapies can help you release the emotional overload. Sophrology, Reiki or mindfulness meditation are some examples. There are also tricks like putting plasters on your finger or applying nail polish with a horrible taste. It’s important to remember that we suck our thumbs when we feel vulnerable and are trying to fight stress or protect ourselves. The question is, what from! In order to stop sucking your thumb, you have to treat the root of the problem and try to determine the origin of the stress or discomfort.

🤗 Understand yourself, accept yourself, be happy... Let’s do it here and now!

#BornToBeMe

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Article presented by Katie M.

🌻 Discover the world through my eyes.

Hi, I am 54 years old and I suck my thumb. Not many know, my children accept it, catching me from time to time. My boyfriend’s over the years have learned to accept it. I try to be discreet about it. When it comes up in discussion I am quick to say it doesn’t give you cancer. It makes me feel comfortable. I don’t see it as a regressive childhood behavior and think that is another misconception of doctors. I meditate,exercise and have much psychotherapy for childhood sexual abuse and challenges with a controlling mother that I work for. At the end of the day I don’t need to shame myself for anything else. It makes me happy and is calorie free.

Genevieve Stevenson a year ago

Genevieve, et al, it's not only calorie free but drug free, legal, quiet, non-intrusive (compared to smoking for instance), aids in sleep and concentration, is an instant relaxer, and more. The social stigma is as dumb as a lot of things people adhere to mindlessly.

HLM 7 months ago

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