The mouth and lips are full of nerve endings which, when stimulated, provides tactile gratification and comfort. However, anytime the fingers go to the mouth or play with the side of the mouth or lip, it’s a retrogressive action since the gesture is an attempt to regain the security they had as an infant suckling and mouthing. Nail biting is also a form of emotional body language, and when present, is usually habitual because of its origins. The habit which is highly unsightly screams “I am insecure” so should be eliminated from a person’s repertoire. These types of gestures are called “pacifying behaviours” because they are designed to reduce anxiety when exposed to something distressing. Pacifying language tells us that a person is not at ease. Pacifying can also sometimes give up liars because they can be tied or linked to specific words uttered that then in turn require the body to be stroked to create comfort.
Adults that are tense or anxious will play with their mouth or lip. Mouthing a pen, cigarette, piece of their own hair, and even gum when used as a comfort device, are a substitute for the mother’s breast and early childhood mouthing. Sucking, plucking, picking or chewing the lips, rubbing them with a finger or thumb are all forms of auto touching. Confident individuals would never consider using this type of security blanket, let alone be seen touching their faces out of insecurity.