What is the relation between oral fixation and anxiety?

This post answers questions about:  What is the relation between oral fixation and anxiety? Can oral fixation cause anxiety? What is oral fixation? How does fixation develop? What are the various treatment options for fixation? What is Anxiety? What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety? What are some ways to manage anxiety? What are the therapy options for anxiety?

What is the relation between oral fixation and anxiety?

Many individuals carry out acts of chewing and biting which are characteristic behavior of oral fixation to reduce and cope with anxiety. Hence depicting a direct relationship between oral fixation and anxiety levels.

Anxiety-chewing is often used to reduce stress among children with anxiety and also among a few adults with unresolved conflicts during the early stages of development.

Research indicates that exposure to chronic stress induces various physical and mental changes in an individual’s body.

Carrying out acts of chewing that are characteristic of oral fixation is a commonly observed behavior that many people adopt to cope with stress. Chewing causes alterations in the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and autonomic nervous system.

Supporting studies have also indicated that chewing gum during stress decreases plasma and saliva cortisol levels that in turn reduce mental stress.

Can oral fixation cause anxiety?

Oral fixation in itself cannot cause anxiety in individuals. However, the acts that are typical of oral fixation such as excessive drinking, smoking, chewing, and nail-biting when interrupted might lead to anxiety in individuals.

That is an oral fixation that is a cause of early developmental conflicts that might lead to addiction in individuals which when withdrawn from might lead to a great sense of stress and feelings of anxiety.

Thus, according to Sigmund Freud when children pass through all the psychosexual stages of development successfully during the early stages, they are not fixated in a particular stage and do not develop problematic behavior which is typical of oral fixation.

What is oral fixation?

The orals stage according to Freud occurs between birth and 18 months of age where the child holds high levels of oral needs.

When these old needs such as feeding are over met or under met the child might face issues during the later stages and develop what is called oral fixation.

Freud suggests that gum chewing, smoking, nail-biting, and excessive drinking are major signs of over fixation seen in many adults.

Any of these characteristics behaviors in adults which are unusual might indicate unresolved conflicts during the earlier stages of psychosexual development.

How does fixation develop?

According to Sigmund Freud children go through a series of psychosexual stages during which their id’s that is the libidinal energies become focused on different areas of the body.

Hence when children do not pass through all the psychosexual stages of development successfully it might lead to conflict and a resulting fixation in that stage which in other words can be said as “ being stuck”.

Being stuck in a particular psychosexual stage might harm an individual’s personality as they grow up.

What are the various treatment options for fixation?


The main therapy goal of fixation is to release the energies of fixation. The therapist can help the client discuss their patterns and attitudes unconsciously projected onto them. This helps their clients bring their unconscious feelings from their past into their conscious awareness.  

Other therapeutic methods that can be considered to treat fixation are:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be used to focus on the negative thoughts, emotions, and behavior patterns and change them with more acceptable and positive ones.

Trauma centered therapeutic method

This therapeutic method involves trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy or eye-movement desensitization.

 What is Anxiety?

Problems and resulting stress are a part of every individual’s life, which are usually accompanied by some common emotions like confusion, feeling at the edge, a sense of helplessness, and recurrent negative thoughts which can collectively be seen as an individual experiencing what’s commonly called as Anxiety. 

Every human has their unique ways of dealing with these difficult situations and the following emotions, some try to adapt to the circumstances and find the best and most comfortable solution while others try to find an escape route for the same, in both cases the main aim is usually to get over the uncomfortable emotions of anxiety. 

What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety? 

Anxiety is characterized by a set of signs and symptoms such as:

  • Sweating
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sense of choking
  • Complaints of chest pain
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness
  • Fear of losing control over oneself and their environment
  • Fear of impending doom
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Increased heart rate

What are some ways to manage anxiety?

Identify and acknowledge the triggers

The most significant strategy that can be used to control one’s anxiety is by identifying and acknowledging those triggers.

Being able to recognize what makes an individual anxious makes them better equipped to take action.

Relaxation techniques


Even though anxiety can be bought under an individual’s control it cannot be predicted. In such situations, it is necessary that an individual actively carries out relaxation techniques.

These might include meditation, yoga, and deep breathing which helps to reduce the intensity of anxiety within a short period.



A key to reducing the frequency and intensity of anxiety attacks could be spending time with close family and friends.

The kind of emotional and practical support provided by these social and personal groups help the person feel connected and aid in distracting one’s mind from negative and recurring thoughts that lead to anxiety.

Apart from friends and families, individuals can also consider speaking to groups of people that are experiencing similar problems.

Set realistic goals

When an individual is feeling overwhelmed, setting goals and targets keeping in mind priorities can help resolve overwhelming feelings of fear or panic.

Setting goals provides structure and routine to an individual’s life reducing space for uncertainty which can be a major trigger for anxiety in many cases.

Take up new challenges

Apart from doing activities that an individual is usually fond of and has expertise in, trying new and challenging activities that put an individual outside their comfort zone in a healthy manner may help reduce the stress and anger temporarily.

Signing up for new activities also provides a path to meeting people with similar stories and concerns.

Lifestyle changes

An individual’s lifestyle plays a major role in their experience of anxiety. An unhealthy and busy lifestyle usually leads to unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, lack of adequate sleep.

A combination of a well-set diet, exercise, and sleep can help to regulate an individual’s mood and equip them with a favorable coping mechanism.

These coping mechanisms in turn help to get control over once anxiety concerns in a more adaptable manner.

lack of proper diet, sleep, and exercise can make an individual sluggish, dependent, moody and vulnerable to anxiety attacks.

Making journal entries

Last but not least having a journal to write down how a person is feeling and thinking when they are anxious helps them to reflect upon their thoughts and feelings.

Putting down one’s thoughts and feelings onto a paper helps to provide a sense of temporary relief.

In the case of journal entry, a person does not even have to fear being judged by another person regarding their thoughts and feelings.

What are the therapy options for anxiety?

Cognitive-behavioural therapy

Cognitive-behavioural therapy helps an individual to control their anxiety by using strategies like relaxation and breathing. It works on the principles of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is a kind of therapy in which an individual is exposed to a particular stimulus that they usually fear or are anxious about in a graded order.

As and when the individual gets comfortable with the situation or stimulus introduced or exposed to them with each session, individuals get more comfortable with a real-life situation that might have otherwise been a source for triggering anxiety.

Group therapy


It is based on the principle that when an individual interacts with other people who are suffering from the same fears they might not feel left alone or isolated. Group therapy usually involves a group of individuals who are experiencing similar symptoms and problems.


Anxiety can also be treated with the help of medication prescribed by a health care professional.

Though medication alone cannot help in reducing persistent anxiety it can help in restoring a sense of control and bring temporary relief. 

Online therapy  

In cases where reaching out physically to a professional is impossible or discomforting an individual can opt to seek help through the online medium. 

In this, the therapy sessions are carried out one-to-one over a video or audio call. Some individuals also prefer interacting with the therapist through text as well due to various reasons. One of the most common is the fear of being judged by the therapist or some personal hesitation. 

Online therapy can help individuals to regulate some aspects of their anxiety that aids individuals in carrying out a stress-free life over time


Child development in earlier stages has a great impact on a person’s entire life. Successful progression of children through various developmental stages at an earlier stage might help to avoid oral fixations and resulting anxieties.

However, many people experience oral fixation due to certain conflicts at earlier stages of life which can be resolved with active therapy and treatment options

Frequently asked questions

What does an oral fixation indicate?

According to the psychoanalytic theory, eating is seen as an oral fixation. It’s associated with being over or underfed during early developmental stages leading to conflicts during the oral stage that have a strong emotional impact. Oral fixation tends to create excess oral needs in adulthood which may be met by overeating.

How do you know if you have an oral fixation?


According to Freud nail-biting, gum chewing, excessive drinking, and smoking are all signs of oral fixation.

What helps oral fixation?

Some strategies that individuals can adopt to help their oral fixation are:

  • Using toothpicks
  • Drinking water
  • Nicotine coated candies
  • Using vegetable sticks
  • Taking sugarless gums and hard candy
  • Using sugar-free cigarette substitutes.

Why do people like to chew on things?

Chewing keeps the mouth occupied and helps distract actively.

Why do people like chewing on rubber?

The need to chew on rubber is called pica. Mental health specialists have recognized pica as a symptom of iron deficiency or anemia for centuries now.



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