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Thumb Sucking

Do adults suck their thumbs?

Do adults suck their thumbs? Are there any celebrity thumb suckers? These are questions we are often asked. The answer to both, is yes.

A 2017 survey showed that 12 per cent of adults are thumb suckers. Other estimates are that around one in ten grownups suck their thumbs. Around two-thirds of these are women.

Famous thumb suckers

There are a number of well-known thumb suckers from Susan Boyle to Rihanna. Amy Winehouse, too, was often snapped by paparazzi while sucking her thumb. And it’s not just singers: Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence also appears unable to kick the habit. Even actress Emma Stone reveals thumb sucking effected her teeth.

While these famous thumb suckers get a lot of media attention, and sometimes criticism, adult thumb sucking can be a cause for real concern.

Why do adult suck their thumbs?

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex – in fact, it is one of the first reflexes we learn in the womb. As a child grows, they typically move on to other reflexes and behaviours. For a small number, however, thumb sucking can continue into late childhood and even adulthood.

At this stage in life, thumb sucking is usually a coping mechanism – a way for adults to deal with stress and anxiety. In some cases, if a person found that sucking their thumb as a child helped them to feel calm, it can be a difficult habit to break in adulthood.

The consequences can be serious, however. Some of the most common are mis-aligned teeth, problems with the roof of the mouth and even altered jawlines. Speech problems can also develop, and some evidence suggests that adult thumb suckers are more likely to develop oral infections.

Unfortunately, the longer a person sucks their thumb, the more likely they are to need orthodontic treatment.

How can I stop?

The first thing to bear in mind is that you should not be ashamed of your thumb sucking habit. While it may not be ideal, it did start as a natural reflex after all.

It can be important to look for help, however.

You can speak to your doctor, and you may also want to speak to a counsellor if you feel that the thumb sucking has become a crutch or a means of dealing with anxiety. They will help you to develop other, healthier techniques.

Another good option is exercise. A brisk walk, swim or jog can help to reduce anxiety, and limit the need to suck your thumb for stress relief.

So, the next time you hear someone asking, “do adults suck their thumbs?”, remember the answer is “Yes.” The good news is, with the right help, the habit can be stopped and long-term damage can be avoided.

Comments

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  1. Janie says:

    Thank you. I thought I was alone. I sucked my thumb as a child and after my son died in November I woke up sucking my thumb. It’s all that made me feel calm.

  2. Vernie says:

    Hi
    I have recently has an orthodontics appointment with my 13year old daughter that shucks her thumb, and has done since she was in the womb.
    The orthodontics first comment was well we have a thumb suckered here..that will stop right now! I immediately just to her defence finding my inner lioness and said ‘NO she won’t! They both looked extremely shocked that I wasn’t going along with his suggestion. He then proceeded to tell me that if I was to cover her hands with a pair of tight socks and tape them tightly at the wrist it will stop her overnight. I was horrified!
    Many would of probably guessed by now that I am myself a 40 Yr old lifelong thumb sucker. I am not afraid of admitting this.
    So are my two nieces that are 30 and 27 years old.
    We have yes all needed orthodontic treatment (as a high percentage of non thumb suckered do too) BUT all of our teeth have remained in perfect condition and inlignment.
    The dentist was refusing to do any treatment unless we agreed to ‘stop the thumb sucking!
    As he said he had spent years at University an studying to do his job.
    Why is it I have all of a sudden got to the age of 40 Nd this is such a huge thing?
    It doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s used as a comfort and is entirely natural.
    Is there anyone out there that is on my side?

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