health & happiness wellness

My (not-so-secret) nasty habit

February 21, 2013


A conversation between Brian and me earlier this morning . . .

Me: Hey, I read an article in my magazine that says picking at slash biting your lips is an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Brian: [crickets]

Me: I do that.

Brian: And . . .

Me: And apparently I’m OCD!

Brian: Are you surprised?

So it turns out that I am a compulsive lip biter – and not in the sexy kind of way. It’s one of those gross habits that every January I resolve to quit, but I don’t really want to quit because in my own sick way I really enjoy it. And even when I manage not to bite them, I pick at them with my fingers – like that’s somehow better. “Is this a problem?” you ask. You could say that. My lips regularly crack and then scab; I pull off dry skin even when I know it’s going to bleed and hurt like hell; and I chipped my bottom front tooth doing it. Twice.

I should have realized that this is actually OCD, but I didn’t because people with OCD don’t think it’s OCD, right? Yes, I was totally surprised to learn that there is a term for this and that behavioral therapy and drugs are the recommended treatments. Who has the time to send their lips to therapy? Not this girl. Even as I’m writing this I’m all like, “Oh, I’m not really OCD. I can stop anytime I want. I just don’t want to stop.” Right. I’m biting them right now.

I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. I had a boyfriend from way back in the day write me a poem about my bloody, chapped lips. (Don’t judge. I loved that poem.) Brian’s been begging me to stop since we met, but I just can’t. Even when I leave behind bloody kiss marks on my kids’ cheeks – like my Aunt Mary’s signature red lipstick but sicker – I just make a mental note to check for bleeding next time before kissing them.

And it’s not like I try to hide this. Most of the time, I’m only vaguely aware that I’m even doing it. Plus, it’s my face – I mean, it’s right there for everyone to see. It never occurred to me that this was potentially embarrassing in any way, but now I know that it’s pathological. So . . . great. I guess it’s time to start building up my therapy fund.


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  • Reply Connor February 21, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    I feel like I remember this poem writing boyfriend.

    • Reply Melissa February 21, 2013 at 5:56 PM

      Hmm, maybe. Maybe not. I’m afraid these bloody lips are sealed.

  • Reply Hélène Berube February 23, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    I don’t really see this as an OCD but more like a bad habit that went on for a long time just like bitting nails. My daughter was doing that and I tried nagging and nail polish but those didn’t work. Finally, I found a product that tasted so bad when she was putting her fingers in her mouth that she stopped. It is always good to know the why and the when you are doing it but it is not essential. I refer often to a blog called “Zenhabits”. He has some common sense ways to change bad habits into good ones. It you do a bit of research of how to change a bad habit, you should find something that works for you. You can do it!

    • Reply Melissa February 23, 2013 at 10:42 PM

      Thanks for the encouraging words, Hélène. Maybe they have bad-tasting lip gloss for people like me. That might work! I have noticed that it’s always worse when I’m stressed or anxious, so at least I can more be aware during those times. And thanks for letting me know about Zen Habits — it looks totally amazing!

  • Reply Gerbs June 6, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    Dentists call this morsicatio labiorum. It is a condition of women over 35 associated with stress, most of the time. All the trauma will go away in three weeks. Xoxoxo

  • Reply Emma Davis August 18, 2013 at 12:30 AM

    I am a 19 girl I have picked the skin off my lips since I was probably 3 or 4 ish and I don’t think I will ever stop! I am so glad I found this blog please continue to add entries! God Bless You!

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