Adults and thumb sucking

Not so unusual after all

Thumb sucking is recognized as a perfectly natural habit for little ones, most of whom grow out of it by approximately four years of age. When we see a baby or toddler sucking their thumb, therefore, we are likely to think it cute rather than unusual. After all,  70-90% of babies do it at some point. However, when adults suck their thumb, they receive a mixed reception ranging from surprise to condemnation.

Because they don't realize how common the practice is, many people consider adult thumb-sucking a bizarre or unusual habit. This reaction of surprise is understandable. Through fear of the stigma, adults who suck their thumbs tend to do so privately rather than in public view. In fact, estimates suggest that 10% of adults are thumb suckers.


Some adult thumb suckers I have spoken with have 'enjoyed' the habit since infancy. Others found the practice an effective stress reliever or began thumb sucking in response to trauma. Many confess they also struggle with feelings of anxiety. Others admitted to being publicly caught and mocked because they inadvertently began thumb sucking in the workplace or public transport.

Years ago, a friend (I shall not reveal her name) confessed that she had remained single, having turned down several first dates due to her thumb sucking. She was so afraid of hand-holding and having a man see her callused thumbs that the prospect of dating seemed impossible to her.

The issues are the same

Dentists advise that excessive thumb-sucking in children leads to issues such as an overbite after adult teeth cut through. Children are also known to develop painful sucking blisters and suffer skin infections due to the habit. These issues are why parents seek intervention aids such as thumb guards for their children, particularly once they reach four years of age.

Adults who continue to indulge in thumb sucking may feel embarrassed and avoid mentioning their habit to a dentist or other medical professional. Although they experience the same health risks as children, this means they may endure those risks in silence.

For some adults, the habit both leads to and relieves anxiety. Having hands afflicted with chronic skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, callused fingers, or enflamed nail beds due to thumb sucking often affects confidence. This anxiety is particularly troublesome for some when applying for jobs or working in areas where the hands are prominent. Others may avoid those all-important engagement or wedding ring photographs through fear of receiving comments about unsightly hands or fingers.

It's not the worst habit

While thumb sucking in adulthood might cause an adult to avoid seeking help, it is crucial to remember that the habit is no worse than being a nail-biter or a skin picker. In actuality, most people have a behavior they turn to in times of stress, and some are far worse for your health than thumb sucking. Whether you consider these bad habits or comfort habits, practicing them does not make you a lesser person than anyone else.

Ready to stop?

Not all adult thumb-suckers want to end the habit. For those who do, it is essential to be committed to stopping. There are many options and aids available to help adults break habits, including those that are effective for children. Bitter tasting potions applied to the thumbs can help, as can speaking to professionals trained in the field of anxiety. Alternatively, thumb guards may help you break that habit.

While many of our thumb guard fabrics have designs preferred by children, we have added a range of plain coloured guards to our portfolio in recognition of the growing demand for adult-sized thumb guards. While retaining all the features that make our other thumb and finger guards so popular, such as the breathable, moisture-resistant lining and the choice of fastenings, our plain guards for adults are available in 12 colours. This range also offers larger sizes than those available on our other listings.

If you do not see the size you require, or if you would like to purchase an adult sized guard made using one of the patterned fabrics instead, don't hesitate to contact us. We are happy to accommodate your needs wherever we can.

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