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Thumb-Sucking – What to Know About Someones First Addiction

By August 13, 2019 No Comments

Today, addictions plague the world. Many people have their own habits in some way. For many, that addiction is harmful. How does one address such addictions? What can be done to overcome this issue?

The last place you may look at to learn more about the science behind addiction is thumb-sucking babies. There are some things to learn from a thumb-sucking baby that will help people overcome their issue.

Our First Addiction

Despite the negative association that goes with the word “addiction, thumb-sucking is beneficial for early development. Through research, it is now known that premature babies who suck their thumbs leave the hospital earlier compared to those who don’t. It soothes and relieves the baby, saving energy that could have been used to cry for the mother.

Thumb sucking also helps aid digestion by regulating stomach movements, along with controlling breathing and heart rates.

When faced with new situations, thumb-sucking is a way for infants to calm down. This allows them to be independent for more extended periods. After infancy however, children develop other ways of coping, however some children become “addicted” to sucking.

Like a smoker lighting a cigarette or a drinker opening a bottle of beer, a toddler can deal with stress by thumb-sucking. However, just like the other harmful addictions, early benefits pave the way to problems.

From a short-term perspective, most addictions come with benefits. One of the main benefits, as previously mentioned, is addressing stress. Chronic stress can cause the body’s immune system to weaken, increasing the likelihood of a person becoming sick. What we know about this habit is that a feedback loop within the brain is created during sucking. Kids become addicted to the natural stress relievers, serotonin and dopamine that are released in the brain when sucking. This addiction to sucking then continues into toddlerhood and beyond.

However, as the child grows and develops, the habit often slowly disappears. For those who don’t stop sucking, however, much like those who are addicted to substances today, new benefits turn into late horrors. Change can only come if the person realizes the change that needs to be made.

Freudian psychologists argue that, like cigarettes, thumb-sucking is an oral fixation. Adults calm themselves with a cigarette, and infants with their thumb.

Recovery from Addiction

What can people learn from thumb-sucking to help tackle the issue of addiction? Instead of inducing guilt, shame, and criticizing the kids for their addiction, the parent will converse as equal to their toddlers. For adults, this same approach can be used. Instead of criticizing and shaming substance abusers, be understanding and helpful. Explain the risk they put onto their careers and relationships because of their use of drugs and/or alcohol.

The underlying issue with thumb-sucking, and with any other addiction that is very hard to beat is not the consequences, but the benefits. This may sound contradictory, but this is what it means.

The hardest factor faced is the psychological issue that an individual is trying to pacifying themselves. Relapse is inevitable in both cases. A persistent and forgiving heart is vital in helping the addicted on their road to recovery.

In the end, children need support from their parents, friends, family, or loved ones. Even those who have been in their shoes can provide excellent support because they cannot face it alone. Be persistent and be patient. The day will come when they will thank you with all their heart that you have been with them every step of the way.

We’re a thumb sucking clinic that helps to resolve addictive sucking among toddlers and children – get in touch today to see how we can help!