Hand biting - why does it happen?

Hand biting is a common behaviour in which an individual bites or chews on their own hands or fingers. This behaviour is typically seen in children, but it can also occur in adults. Hand biting can be a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, boredom, or sensory needs, and it can lead to physical harm if left unchecked. In this blog, we'll explore the reasons behind hand biting, the potential consequences, and some strategies for managing the behaviour.

Why Do People Bite Their Hands?

There are many reasons why someone might engage in hand biting. For children, it can be a form of self-soothing or a way to explore their environment. It's not uncommon for babies and toddlers to put their hands in their mouths as a way to soothe themselves or relieve teething discomfort. For older children, hand biting can be a sign of anxiety or stress. It may also be a symptom of an underlying condition such as ADHD, autism, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

In adults, hand biting can also be a symptom of anxiety or stress. It may be a subconscious behaviour that occurs when a person is deep in thought or feeling overwhelmed. Some individuals may also engage in hand biting as a form of self-injury or as a way to cope with feelings of anger or frustration.

Potential Consequences of Hand Biting

While hand biting may seem harmless, it can lead to physical harm if left unchecked. Constant biting can cause skin irritation, cuts, and even infections. In severe cases, it may lead to permanent scarring or nerve damage. Additionally, hand biting can be a socially stigmatizing habit, leading to feelings of shame or embarrassment. For children, hand biting may lead to negative attention from peers, and for adults, it may impact their professional and personal relationships.

Strategies for Managing Hand Biting

If you or someone you know is struggling with hand biting, there are several strategies that can help manage the behaviour. The following are some suggestions:

  • Identify Triggers: The first step in managing hand biting is to identify the triggers that may be causing the behaviour. For example, if hand biting occurs during times of stress or anxiety, identifying those situations can help a person prepare for them and develop coping mechanisms to avoid biting.
  • Offer Alternative Behaviors: Providing alternative behaviours can help redirect the urge to bite. For children, offering chew toys or other sensory toys can be helpful. For adults, stress balls or fidget toys may be effective. Having a designated object to chew on can also be helpful.
  • Encourage Communication: For children who engage in hand biting, where possible, it's important to encourage communication about their feelings. Helping them identify and express their emotions can reduce the need to engage in self-soothing behaviours like hand biting. For adults, seeking therapy or talking to a trusted friend or family member can provide an outlet for processing emotions and reducing stress.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety, which may be triggers for hand biting. Practicing mindfulness can also help increase self-awareness and allow a person to recognize the urge to bite before it happens.
  • Seek Professional Help: If hand biting is causing physical harm or impacting daily life, it may be necessary to seek professional help. A therapist or behavioural specialist can work with you to develop a personalized plan for managing the behaviour.

In conclusion, hand biting is a behaviour that can have negative consequences if left unchecked. Understanding the reasons behind the behaviour and identifying triggers can be helpful in managing it. Offering alternative behaviours, encouraging communication, practicing mindfulness, and seeking professional help are all strategies that can help you manage hand biting and reduce its impact on your lives.

Can our thumb guards and finger guards help with hand biting?

We understand that hand biting can be a challenging habit to break, and that it can lead to painful damage to the skin. That's why we now offer a solution in the form of padded thumb guards and finger guards designed to help protect skin from the effects of hand biting.  These are only available on request as they are made specifically for the needs of individuals. If you or someone you know is struggling with this habit, we invite you to contact us today to discuss your needs and how we might be able to help.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published