Some of the common habit behavioral disorder

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Some of the  common habit behavioral  disorder 

What  are  Habit disorders ?

They are  repetitive,non-functional behaviors that do notresult in injury or interfere with normal activities, occur in the contextof normal development and typically resolve without specific treatment. They are mostly tension discharging phenomenon.

Some commonly observed  habit disorders  are :

Thumb sucking,

Nail biting,

Breath holding,

Headbanging and body rocking.

Hair pulling (Trichotillomania),

Teeth grinding  ( bruxism),

Air swallowing  (Aerophagia ).

What is the extent of the problem ?


Most people will develop habit behaviors at somepoint in their lifetime.

Prevalence are as low as 4-5% for breath holding to a high of about 80% for

thumb sucking.

Overall, about 15-20% of children under the age of 3years will exhibit some kind of habit behavior.

What is the cause ?


The cause  may vary depending upon the habit it may be associated with painor anger (breath holding), sensory seeking (thumb sucking), anxiety(nail biting) or sleepiness (head banging,body rocking).


Interventions for Selected Habit Behaviors:


Thumb sucking:

Reassurance for parents

May Ignore in children under 4 years –will usually remit by 6 years withoutintervention.

Praise and rewards for not sucking thumb.

Use a bandage on the thumb to remind them not to suck.

May refer children over 5 years to an orthodontist for a thumb crib.

Nail biting:


Keep nails short

Must rule out underlying emotional disorder.

Habit Reversal Therapy can be applied for school aged children consists of three


1. Increase awareness of habit – e.g. have them look in the mirrorwhile biting their nails

2. Teach a competing response – e.g. chewing gum, blowing airthrough pursed lips, etc.3. Teach relaxation techniques – visualization, deep breathing,progressive muscle relaxation (see anxiety module appendices)

May refer children over 5 years to an orthodontist for a bite plate

Breath Holding:

Reassurance for parents if able to diagnose by history alone – episodesgenerally remit by age 5 years

Video of event shall help in diagnose

EEG and EKG if nature of episode still remains unclear

Parents should remain calm and not give attention to the behavior

Consider supplemental iron if anemic

Head Banging/Head Rolling/Body Rocking:

May occur separately or together in otherwise healthy children aroundsleep time

Reassurance – rarely results in injury and will usually remit by 4years of age withoutintervention

Parents should remain calm and not give attention to the behavior

If still concerned:

– Line crib with bumper pad

– Move crib away from wall

If behavior persists beyond 4 years of age may need furtherevaluation.

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