Adult Thumbsucking (POST 2)

I was very surprised to hear about this adult thumb sucking in class so I wanted to look more into it. I was a thumb sucker as a child and I got a cut on my thumb when I was four to stop the habit for me, but I wanted to find out if some people never kicked the habit. In class we talked about how thumb sucking is a comforting and soothing reflex that provides security for the baby and as we grow older we still have this habit but eventually find it socially unacceptable and eventually move on from thumb sucking to other oral fixations such as smoking or chewing on a pen. Some though keep this habit but have to do it in isolation from everyone else for they are ashamed of still having this habit.

I googled adult thumb sucking to see what I would find and there is a website called,  and I found some interesting things. This is a sight where adult thumb suckers can talk to each other, blog about their thoughts, feelings,  experiences and just be a part of an organization that they can share with others with the same habit. They call themselves the ATS ( adult thumb suckers). It’s quite amazing, I had no idea there was anything like this.   Most of these people just never moved on from the habit and now have to deal with it in private for fear of embarrassment but now they can come out of hiding and not be ashamed.

There is only a slight disadvantage of prolonged thumb sucking, which is of course the dental damage it can cause.  There is no permanent damage done that can’t be fixed with some orthodontal work, so I see no serious health risks.  On Wikipedia I found what the American Dental Association says should be done to try to help kids stop sucking their thumb:

Tips from the American Dental Association:

  • Praise children for not sucking, instead of scolding them when they do.
  • If a child is sucking its thumb when feeling insecure or needing comfort, focus instead on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child.
  • If a child is sucking on its thumb because of boredom, try getting the child’s attention with a fun activity.
  • Involve older children in the selection of a means to cease thumb sucking.
  • The pediatric dentist can offer encouragement to a child and explain what could happen to its teeth if it does not stop sucking.
  • Only if these tips are ineffective, remind the child of its habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock/glove on the hand at night

These are all valid things to do I guess if you want to stop the habit and they don’t seem to be very emotionally harmful but I still think that it should be naturally done. I remember from class we talked about how you should let your child suck their thumb because it is a comforting reflex and to make it a horrible experience can me emotionally strainful for a child. Which I think is why some adults still suck their thumb in hiding because they were made to believe it was a bad thing to do,  which is why they are ashamed and still doing it in secret as adults.

I think it is a good thing though that they have this website because there are probably many adults out there that still suck their thumb and are really embarrassed about it, but now they can see how they are not alone and can talk to others about it. I don’t see a problem with adult thumb sucking with only minimal health disadvantages if it causes a form a relaxation and calmness then why not. Everyone has their own way of relaxing why should we ridicule those who suck their thumb?

I found this info on and the dental tips on Wikipedia

Lisa Tamburrino

~ by Lisa Tamburrino on September 16, 2009.

3 Responses to “Adult Thumbsucking (POST 2)”

  1. The only thing I can see wrong with adult thumbsucking is that the underlying issue, why these adults need comfort, isn’t being addressed. There seems to be a need for more coping skills or perhaps therapy to find where their insecurities lie…
    Jennifer Poulos

  2. That’s interesting that thumb sucking can be a natural defense mechanism. Not that it is or isn’t, but if so, I wonder how we could value such an activity as a coping strategy when it doesn’t seem to correlate with long term comfort. It seems to be a short term fix, unless it may be used clinically while learning about and transiting into long term coping strategies.

    Zach Rusk

  3. If we can think of it as merely a habit, sort of like folding one’s leg which may be an equally comforting posture, than what’s left is only the social stigma.

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