Healthy vs. Unhealthy Thumb Sucking in Adults

When can adult thumb sucking become a problem?

Like any other habit, there is moderation and there is overdoing it. When do you think thumb sucking can be bad for you? Many adults don’t have any consequences from their thumb sucking, but some develop crooked or bucked teeth. Some people may damage the skin on their thumbs.

So what are your thoughts?

What is the difference between healthy and unhealthy thumb sucking in adults?

78 Responses to “Healthy vs. Unhealthy Thumb Sucking in Adults”

  1. Craig says:

    I am a 30 year old male and although I don’t suck my thumb I do suck my left index finger. I hide it from everyone I can. As I tend to only do it to sleep and in moments of stress where I can hide it involving a sleeve.
    This has big problems with sharing a bed with a new partner but most accept it as once I’m asleep it falls out and they have the snoring to deal with!

  2. Mike says:

    I never thought I would share this, especially with a people I don’t know. But…

    I am 29 years old. I am an English major in college. It would feel silly to say I have sucked my thumb all my life cause it isn’t something that people pick up in there teens or twenties. But yeah I suck my thumb. Not really sure if I would even call it that, for my self anyway. It is more just having it in my mouth. I have always kept it a private habit. I noticed a lot of people posted about doing it in the car but I am a 2 hands on the wheel kinda guy. I have debated kicking the addiction on and off for years but it has been my coping mechanism all my life. I have a partner who doesn’t talk about it but I know they have seen me.
    My mom said that I was stuck in my life from the interesting childhood I had and that is why I have never managed to kick this habit. It is funny to me that she would choose to talk to me about this when some of her other children choose drinking and drugs to deal with things. As many people have said, “I’m not hurting anyone.” I am not forcing others to suck my thumb like smokers force everyone around them to share their smoke.

    My teeth are fine, as are my thumbs. The worst that happens is the roof of my mouth gets a little tender once in a while.

    If you quit then you should be proud of yourself, but for those of us who don’t really have a problem with it, I say “Eh. Do as you please.”

    Remember, “I don’t expect other people to change for me so why should they expect me to change for them.”

    • Kelly says:

      Very informative. I agree the habit is not harming to others but many people do have open bites and cross bites associated with this habit. I know because as a result of this habit my teeth are messed up and now I will need my jaw broken and braces in place. I am 50 and thought I could get away with this habit but it has come back hard to remind me that even a good thing can be bad for you.

  3. Candy says:

    I’ve sucked both my ring n middle finger on my right hand every since I was small. I’m 21 years old right now in university, have a part time job, and have started to think about trying to stop. The thing is when I’m outside of my house, at school, or at work I never feel the urge to suck my fingers. But once I’m at home watching tv, reading a book, or going to sleep they are always in my mouth. It just relaxes me as I do whatever I’m doing. One of my aunts got me to stop when I was young but I started back again. Finger sucking has not affected my teeth at all, but the skin on my middle finger has been affected. My whole family knew when I was a kid they sucked it, but no one knows that I still do accept my mother. Well she believes I still do, but has not seen me do it. I never let anyone see me do it, ever! Sometimes I do feel guilty about sucking my finger, but most times I don’t. But my thing is, is when I have a partner that I share personal space with, there is no way I would feel comfortable with them seeing me, nor would I want to tell them. Eventually I will need to stop, but honestly don’t want to. I feel like my finger sucking is an immature thing to do, thats only for children and I need to grow out of it…….

  4. Rebecca says:

    Hi, it’s Rebecca again… It’s hard to remember everything you want to say in your first post…

    Anyway, I’m 19 now, and I’m sucking more openly in the car, depending on the traffic. I know I must have been seen, not that I care that much. A few weeks ago, I was riding in the backseat when I didn’t bother to remove my thumb as a car passed in the fast lane. The woman in the passenger seat was staring away! Though she was wearing sunglasses so I couldn’t see exactly where she was looking… Though I bet it was at me! Oh well… perhaps I like shocking people…

    As for dental effects, I have a thumb-shaped mark on the roof of my mouth, and some of my front teeth have moved slightly. I’ve never heard of any other thumb-suckers with a scar-like mark like mine, and I’m surprised no dentist has ever mentioned it.

    I think my father is getting a bit annoyed at my habit and has made a few comments, which I hate, though none recently…

    Anyway, I don’t think I’ll ever give up my thumb or charmy (pacifier). I just can’t imagine quitting and NEVER doing it again. I’ve said that when I’m old, I’ll be lying in some nursing home, still with a charmy in my mouth.

    Anyway, I think it’s great to have a website like this where we can openly discuss our habit.

    Please send no emails.

  5. Lilia Pereira says:

    Eu tenho 32 anos e chupo dedo,tenho vergonha de fazer isso na frente dos meus familiares.
    Faço isso quando tou com fome ,triste ou quando vou dormir.Chupo dedo desde de pequena
    e não consigo parar.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Yesterday I was at Walmart and saw a woman sucking her thumb- it was the first time I ever saw another adult thumbsucker in person. I know I must have been witnessing a rare event since so few adults have the nerve to indulge so publicly.

  7. Conflicted says:

    I am 33 years old…..and have been a thumb sucker my whole life. Even admitting this is making me feel uncomfortable. I am married with 2 children. My husband knows and accepts it as do my children. I feel very guilty when I do it, and find myself doing it more often than I ever used to. I have tried to stop…oh how I have tried, even cutting up my pillow ( a small piece of one that I hold when I suck my thumb). My parents tried everything to get me to stop, including pepper, Off! spray and bribing me with gifts. Nothing has worked. I feel more addicted to it than anything in my life and cannot go a day without it, not to mention trying to sleep without doing it….yet the guilt and embarrassment I feel about doing it is making me miserable. I have high self esteem and self respect, and I thoroughly love the feeling of ‘release’ I get when I suck my thumb. I do it while I watch tv, work, drive, sleep, read, write…..it is non stop. A large part of me wishes I could stop, but the same size part of me does not. I don’t know if i want advise or just a means to voice something I have held a secret for my entire life and carried the guilt for for just as long.

    • Kelly says:

      Ok, so you feel guilty, but continue this habit in the car for the world to see. I think that would make you more uncomfortable. You do understand that being in a car is like being in a fish bowl where everyone can see what you are doing that high up in the car?!

  8. Magic says:

    Hi. I’m 28 years old and my boyfriend sucks his thumb/fingers. He hides it from me… When we are watching tv on the couch he usually covers up with a pillow. When he sleeps he lays on one side covering his face.. The one not facing me. The suking has gotten a bit louder t night. We have never discussed it. But I want to talk about it. I don’t know how to bring it up to him. I want him to feel comfortable talking about it. I feel like he jerks when I turn to him and he is doing it and hiding it. It’s so akward. I am also concerned because he seems to rather suck his thumb then hold me in bed. It can be very frustrating for me. We have been together for a year now and it still hasn’t been discussed. It’s like the elephant in the room at this point. I don’t want to emberass him. But I want to talk about it before I get so frustrated I just break up with him.
    Do you have any advise or words of encouragement for me?
    Thanks

    • Kelly says:

      Tell him you watched a show about adult thumb suckers and found it to be very informative. Maybe that will open the dialoge between the two of you.
      My Mom pulled this trip with a soap opera. She told me a character on the soap opera was adopted and asked how did I feel about it. A few days later she told me I was adopted. Any way to open a discussion can be worth the effort.

  9. Magic says:

    Please just respond to the post… No emails

  10. Magic says:

    Craig,
    How should I approach my boyfriend… We have been sharing space for quite a while now and I’m beginning to get ao frustrated… I almost feel like he knows I know and because I don’t say anything he does it more and more… But in a way that is uncomfortable to me… Like rolling over an covering his face… It’s so strange and sometimes it angers me…

  11. Rebecca says:

    Conflicted:

    Stop beating yourself up! Ask yourself: Is there really any reason to be embarrassed over such a simple, natural habit? As you can see, there are plenty of other adult thumbsuckers. The problem is that society likes to set up pointless guidelines for its members to follow. No one cares when a little kid sucks his/her thumb, but after some magical age, it’s considered taboo. You just have to be comfortable with yourself. Tell yourself: This is me, I’m a thumbsucker, so what? If you haven’t already done so, check out the articles at thumbsuckingadults.com as well.

  12. Haley says:

    hi, im a 19 year old college student who sucks my thumb, all the time. in class, driving, reading, watching tv and laying in bed. my girlfriend always catches me doing it and yells for me to take my thumb out but i cant help it, the urge is too strong. It is the only thing that calms me down. I had braces put on when i was 11 and because of my thumb sucking habit, i STILL have them on. I know, its bad. I cant break the habit. I try and stop and then an hour later i find myself sucking my thumb again. Its completely involentary anymore. the roof of my mouth is a different shape and my left thumb is flat. My parents told me when they took the passy out my thumb went right in and ive been this way ever since. I have tried everything, believe me. Im happy i found this site becuase i didnt think anyone had the same problem. idk if im ever going to break this terrible habit!

  13. Chloe says:

    I’ve sucked my thumb my whole life. It’s a part of me. I don’t feel that there is anything shameful for sucking your thumb or finger. My family, closest friends AND all of my BF’s in the past have known.
    Why would they care if I suck my thumb? It doesn’t hurt anyone else, it isn’t bad for my health, there are no calories, it feels good and relaxes us instantly.
    We are LUCKY, you know that? We have something that we can do that INSTANTLY makes us relax that doesn’t include comfort eating or smoking or using illegal drugs.
    I don’t care if anyone knows I suck my thumb. I’ll post it on facebook, tweet about it, whatever.
    Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to suck my thumb while I’m sitting in my office at work as there are professional standards, but at home?
    If you have a partner that is that worried about the fact that you suck your thumb while watching TV or to go to sleep, they are not worth having. I’ve always been with men that really don’t care.
    Be proud of who you are regardless what others think.

    • Kelly says:

      I like what you say but disagree about the health aspect……..most of us end up with open bites AND cross bites that need to be addressed at some point in our lives. I know because now I have to pay the piper for my years of thumb sucking.

  14. Jess says:

    I’ll be 22 next month, and I’ve sucked my thumb as long as I can remember (and I don’t plan on stopping).
    There was a time in elementary school when some of my good friends knew, as we’d have sleepovers together. Now that I’m older though, only my family knows (a fair amount of them too). They don’t bother me about it though, only my dad occasionally will pull my hand away from my mouth, but he does that if I’m biting my nails or chewing my lip too.
    As for health effects, I had to have braces when I was 12, which fixed my teeth. When they came off I got a permanent retainer behind my bottom front teeth and a removable one for the top… Which I never wore at night because I couldn’t suck my thumb with it in. I ended up needing invisalign on my top teeth to re-straighten them, followed by a permanent retainer on top to match the bottom. If you’re worried about moving your teeth, don’t want to stop sucking your thumb, and have the money, get one! It’s been 9 years and my teeth are still perfectly straight.
    There are a few other physiological things that have happened to me due to sucking my thumb; the roof of my mouth has a very high arch (not an issue, just not normal), my tongue is very strong and would push against my bottom teeth if not for the retainer, and my thumb is flat and has lots of lines on it, like a much older person’s skin.
    I always make sure to wash my hands before sucking my thumb if I’ve been out or it feels dirty, although I’d like to think sucking my thumb has boosted my immunity by exposing myself to more microbes than others may get (like little vaccinations :P).
    To those of you who feel guilty, it’s too bad that you feel this way. If only people who smoked felt that way, as smoking also can be due to oral fixation, and is a form of stress release, but additionally is hugely damaging to your health, everyone around you, and your wallet. Lowering your stress is good for you, and if you’re just sucking your thumb, the benefits most likely outweigh any detriments.
    When I was younger, I’d become stressed, thinking I needed to kick the habit before I got married (my aunt used to tease that I’d walk down the aisle with my thumb in my mouth). When I decided I wouldn’t stop, and who ever I meet will just need to accept me and all of my quirks, I felt much better. Much of that decision was thanks to the stories on sites like this, so thanks for sharing everyone!

  15. sara says:

    I am a 27 year of female who has been a thumb sucker since the womb. Its so strange that all these years I’ve always thought I was the only one and was such a weirdo for it. I googled adult thumb suckers for the first time ever yesterday! Its so nice to see I’m not alone. When I was little my family made fun of me a lot for it so I started hiding it and have been able to hide it from everyone, including boyfriends I have lived with for years. I do have a stuffed animal that I have also had since childhood that I am slightly more open about. I love to rub it on my face, lips and finger tips and smell and twirl it. I’ve had it for so long I am rubbing it away which is sad. I don’t think I’ll ever stop, I enjoy it too much, it is so much more calming then anything else. I have a very high narrow pallet from it and my teeth have shifted just slightly but Its not really noticeable and I think that it’s worth all the benefit I feel from it. Today, after reading that I’m not alone and shouldn’t feel so ashamed, I told my boyfriend who I have been practically living with for over a year. He is only the second person I have EVER told and the only person I have told within the last 12 years. And you know what he said?! Thats not a big deal my mom sucks her thumb. I think I’m finally realizing that a lot of people do this and its really not such a bad habit to have. I just really can’t believe that he had no idea, I thought for sure he would have figured it out. I guess I’m sneakier then I thought.

  16. Rebecca says:

    Magic,

    Chances are your boyfriend is embarrassed by his habit and is afraid of what you’ll think of it. Pick a quiet moment, and just tell him you know he sucks his thumb; you don’t think any less of him for it; and not to be embarrassed. You can ask if there’s anything bothering him, but chances are it’s just a long-time habit. Please remember that, for many people, the comfort derived from thumbsucking can be achieved no other way. Therefore, it’s probably not from anything you’re doing or something like that.

  17. Rebecca says:

    Hi, I’m back to update everyone on my adventures in sucking. I’m sucking more openly in the car, for example, in the front passenger seat on the highway. But I’m also noticing more of the effect it’s having on my teeth. My two front teeth no longer touch the ones below. When I bite off something like noodles, it’s teeth on tongue instead of teeth on teeth. Sometimes my front teeth are also sore to the touch.

    Anyway, if anyone wants to discuss his/her own adventures- or misadventures- in thumbsucking with me, post here and I’ll get back to you.

  18. Rebecca says:

    I forgot to mention that my mother tells me I used a pacifier a lot as a baby. So it’s a bit surprising that I didn’t discover my thumb after she took the pacifier away. I imagine that my current love of the dummy has something to do with my use of it as an infant. My mother also tells me that during an ultrasound while she was pregnant with me, I was sucking my thumb.

  19. ezzie says:

    I’m a reasonably well-adjusted, functioning, fairly high-achieving 27 year old female and have always sucked my thumb, usually playing with my hair in a particular way. I just love it, the way it feels and smells, how relaxing and meditative it is, the way it helps me to sleep or just deal with stress and anxiety. I feel complete and safe when my thumb is in my mouth. It used to cause me such a huge amount of shame and it’s still not exactly something I advertise! I’ve been living with my partner for nearly two years and I still try to hide it from him even though the one time (that I know of!) that he caught me, he just laughed, grabbed me in a big hug and told me he thought it was adorably cute and he was a little sad when I reacted with such shame and embarrassment. I should probably be more honest and open with him, he’s a wonderfully supportive person. One of my exes knew and we would even try swapping thumbs, his idea even though he wasn’t a thumb sucker himself. He was definitely jealous of how relaxing and soothing it is to me! (Swapping thumbs just isn’t the same in case you were wondering!) It’s never caused me any dental problems and while my right thumb (the good one!) is a little flatter and more wrinkly, has a small callous and the nail’s a little weaker than the other thumb, I really don’t think this justifies the shame and stigma attached to it. It’s definitely a relief to know how many other adults out there suck their thumbs! My mother and aunt are both thumb suckers too and I’m pretty sure at least one of my cousins still is too, does anyone else find this trait runs in their family? I often wonder if my family has more thumb suckers, or if we’re just more open about it than most. Anyway, this is all a bit of a ramble, I’ll leave it at that!

  20. Jonathan says:

    I am 52 year old male, I have not used drugs or smoked or drank alcohol for 25 years, but I have privately sucked my thumb for a very long time now. My Wife has seen it, she almost seems disappointed with me for it, (Looks down on me for it) but it helps me feel better emotionally. I personally don’t see the harm to anybody for MY thumb sucking. I wish people were more accepting of ME, but really they’re not. I have had people take pictures of me when they have seen me driving with my thumb in my mouth. I have had people make rude comments, and of course stare. I do it because it make me feel better, although it is embarrassing for some people, I would not care if people didn’t make fun of me for it. (That is the hardest part) Wish I could stop sometimes, but stress dictates the thumb, and I don’t want to drink… (I wonder how many people would suck their thumbs if they didn’t have drugs or alcohol to cope with their stress) Thanks for letting me vent, maybe someday I won’t be judged for this, and accepted for who I truly am…

  21. Claire says:

    I am a adult thumb sucker, my thumb is a lot smaller than the other one. Is there anything i can do about this? If i stopped sucking it, will it go back to normal?

    Thanks

  22. well am very much relived to know that there people much older than and still suck on their thumbs . am 29 yrs a mother of three i and still suck on my ring fingure every day more especially when am trying to catch a sleep afew people around me are aware of my weakness my family think i out grew it bt its not that simple and i have put in alot of effort to see that i stop bt all in vain so i gave up and enjoyed the most soothing element fate handed me am sorry icant stop may be till death do us apart

  23. Katie says:

    Im back. My nanes katie and the last post was Dec 28th 2011. At 34 I’ve finally decided to quit sucking my thumb! It’s been hard but the urges are slowly going. It’s harder at night when I’m tired and when I’m stressed, that’s for sure. However after 6 days of not doing it, it feels weird having my thumb in my mouth. I brought that Sally Hansens bitter stuff to put on my nail for night time so hopefully if it goes in there when I’m asleep, I’ll pull it out again. If not ill know I’ve sucked it cause of the bitter taste in my mouth lol :) it’s been hard quitting as I still get the odd urge but I’m hoping that will fade. Will it eventually go???? I’ll check in again later. Thanks for reading my update :)

  24. KMR says:

    I have a dirty secret…
    I’m 30at and iI suck my thumb. I have had this habit since I can remember. Like most of you, I thought I was the only adult in the universe that still did this. It is nice to know that I am not alone. I am mentally stable and educated, I am not a criminal. I had no huge traumatic event as a child that caused me to suck my thumb… I just like it. It calms me and relaxes me. I have never shared this with friends, I did once tell a boyfriend when I was in my early 20s. I think adult thumb sucking is perfectly fine.

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