Lip Picking is another aspect of OCD behaviors related to skin picking. This involves the picking of the skin of the lips but also includes the related behavior of biting or chewing the inside of the mouth of cheek. Almost everyone has experienced dry, chapped lips at one time or another. This condition often comes after overexposure to extremes of weather – too much sun, wind, or cold. The lips and mouth can become uncomfortably dry during episodes of high fever and other illnesses, too. Under such circumstances, the lips can become flaky and have a tendency to peel.
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Most people have the self-control or trust in the body to allow healing to occur without inflicting further damage. For other people, however, this situation presents an undeniable opportunity to pick or pull away the damaged tissue. It becomes quickly apparent that this is a very painful practice but, when OCD issues are present, the urge to pick outweighs the promise of pain. Lip picking as an obsessive-compulsive behavior is done in response to stress and anxiety, whether or not the picker is aware of the stress or anxiety. And the stressful situation is most often much more personal than atmospheric conditions. Fever blisters and cold sores often erupt in the presence of stress. The stressful event may be an eagerly anticipated vacation or it can be the death of a loved one. The body only feels the stress, not the level of joy that it may bring. Since the presence of these painful sores on the mouth signal emotional imbalance, compulsive lip picking during such times escalates the level of stress. And the unsightly and painful evidence of lip picking is almost impossible to hide so the level of stress grows and the cycle repeats.
Many people experience their obsessive-compulsive behaviors associated with the mouth in a more covert fashion than lip picking. They chew or bite on the inside of the mouth or the cheeks instead. Even though the evidence is almost entirely undetectable from the outside, the damage inside can be extreme. As with many other obsessive-compulsive behaviors, lip picking may start as an innocent attempt to help along the healing process at a time of injury but the compulsion to continue the behavior continues long after the triggering agent is gone.