Urge to bite, rising.
December 17, 2005 12:18 AM   Subscribe

Does anybody else get the urge to bite something (like say, an arm) every once in a while?

Okay so last time I was home I was hanging out with my 14yr old brother when he piped up with, "I really want to bite something." He picked up my arm and contemplated it for a second before dropping it and then seeming restless. He wanted to bite something chewy but firm.

Now I wasn't freaked out as I had done the same exact thing a few times as a teenager to our other brother. (I actually did bite him, but I was just exercising my big sis rights to do so.)

I know little kids bite, and babies love to chew on stuff, so is the urge to bite just a holdover from our more primitive days? Something to do with hormones that afflicts teenagers? A nutritional defect? And does it happen to everyone but nobody ever talks about it? (Googling just turned up info on nail-biting, puppy training, and creepy cannibal stories.) Or should my family start shopping for chew toys?
posted by lychee to Health & Fitness (62 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
This is probably the most bizarre AskMe answer I will ever type, but I have a female friend who does this every once in a while - she will ask a bit sheepishly if she can bite a friend's arm. It tends to be when she's drunk, although she did once embarrass me by doing it perfectly sober in the queue at the supermarket - the checkout person looked at us like we'd just descended from space. Writing it down and looking it at out of context it does seem incredibly strange, but her friends have got used to it just as one of those idiosyncratic tics or types of behaviour that all of us have.

I've asked her about it in the past, and she says she sees it as another (if surreal) form of expressing intimacy. A bit like you might hug or kiss a good friend. I've always mentally compared it to a dog or cat picking up puppies/kittens in their mouth - it's not so much the biting that matters, simply that it's a form of physical contact that is unusual and therefore close.
posted by greycap at 1:26 AM on December 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

I too have a friend who's a biter when the booze comes out. I just consider them 'love bites' and carry on. :)
posted by youcancallmeal at 1:35 AM on December 17, 2005

Biting is very big in the BDSM community. It's rare to meet a female bottom who doesn't enjoy it. For various reasons, I haven't been bitten very often, but I've sunk my teeth into many a female body part. Assuming it's within the bottom's limits, I go very deep, leaving serious bruises.

Apart from the pleasure of hearing her squeal and feeling her struggle (I'm a sadist; we enjoy that sort of thing), there is definitely a very satisfying physical sensation that goes with it. It's almost like scratching an itch inside your teeth. I think of it as akin to teething even though, of course, I don't remember what teething was like. I do remember, though, that when I had braces as a teenager, I used to get this urge a lot more often, especially after having the braces tightened. (Which sucked, because the tightenings made my teeth and gums extremely sore and biting down hard made the problem that much worse). At that time, I wouldn't have dared ask a female to let me do such a thing to her, so I often bit down on a rubber band or my own finger.
posted by Clay201 at 1:41 AM on December 17, 2005

I'll second the "most bizarre answer" thing. I've felt the urge often since childhood and I couldn't figure out why. I thought I was just weird. I was embarrassed by it and wouldn't let anyone see me do it.

One day I was having alot of problems with my wisdom teeth - they ached like a sonofabitch. My dentist suggested putting a wet washcloth in the freezer for a bit to let it get frosty, then bite down on it. I did it and I felt a lot better... but I started doing that whenever I had the urge to bite something. It felt good to be able to bite down on something soft - the slight pressure on my teeth felt alot better than chewing on ice or some such. I'll still bite my arm sometimes, but now I'll just chew on a cold wet rag for a bit and then I feel better (both toothwise as well as.... mentally?).

I've often wondered about that and a few other things (like, if I'm supposed to hurt this much or feel this old physically, etc.), but never thought to ask. Thank you for opening the door. =)
posted by damnjezebel at 1:44 AM on December 17, 2005

I bite my arm. Not hard but in the same sort of way a cat would pick up a kitten by the scruff of its neck. Either at the wrist or just below the elbow. I don't think you have any reason to be worried about your brother.
posted by ninebelow at 1:54 AM on December 17, 2005

Pine is really good to bite. Nice and soft so it "gives", and it doesn't hurt anyone. Probably cheaper than chew toys, too.
posted by Iamtherealme at 2:34 AM on December 17, 2005

An ex-girlfriend of mine was a biter, and used it to express affection. (Note: Neither of us were/are members of any BDSM community)

It weirded me out at first, but after awhile I didn't mind it.

Judging by the responses here, biting seems pretty normal.
posted by geryon at 2:50 AM on December 17, 2005

Response by poster: Clay201, your post just reminded me that once my other brother mentioned something about biting and his wife. Thanks for dregging up that scarring bit of TMI.

But yes, to me it feels like a compulsion, like a tingle in my teeth that needs to be satisfied. Interestingly, this feels similar to other compulsions I have that I thought were a part of my anxiety problems. Hmm. Though there's kind of a sense of releasing something akin to the physical but not emotional manifestation of fury--my teeth are angry, I'm not. My other compulsions just give me a sense of peace and satisfaction when I give into them. And now I remember I used to gnaw on my fingers....I'm thinking too much about this.

But completely normal, good to know.
posted by lychee at 2:57 AM on December 17, 2005

Best answer: I'd bet the 'urge to bite' is written deep in the hindbrain. As we used to say at the pet store, when asked, "Does it bite?"... if it has a mouth, it'll bite. And biting is one of the most damaging things the average untrained human body can do; not all of us know kung fu, but most of us could easily sever a finger. All primates are ferocious biters. Plenty of animals bite during sex, too, though I'm not sure about primates.

Anyway, it makes sense that the urge to bite comes up now and then. It's something we do, or used to do. Even if not in anger, just the visceral pleasure of chomping on something... just as sometimes we get an apparently-meaningless drive to pick at a rough spot with a fingernail, or to pluck at grass when we're sitting on a lawn.

The thing is, for some reason (not sure why... cannibalism? so 'bestial'? the danger of infected wounds? Or maybe just because we -do- want to do it and we're ashamed to admit it...) biting is really, really taboo in our culture. So we shudder when we hear about the boxer's ear and we teach our kids to use fists instead of fangs. Even a play-bite is seen as 'deviant'.

I too feel the urge to bite, sometimes. Sometimes to bite people who I am angry with, sometimes just to bite some any random one, when I am stressed. My teeth seem to itch. For me, at least, it has nothing to do with hunger or eating, nor the kind of feeling I get when I want to bite my nails. It's not an urge to chew, the molars don't get involved, just to bite. It goes away if I distract myself with something.
posted by Rubber Soul at 3:13 AM on December 17, 2005

I remember I used to have this when I was a kid. And curiously, it was always an urge to bite an arm.
posted by quiet at 4:42 AM on December 17, 2005

I bite my wife all the time. Never to hurt her, and rarely do I ever accidentally leave a bruise, but it's a fairly common occurrence in our relationship. She doesn't like it, but it's something of a compulsion for me.

It's got nothing to do with BDSM for me, at least. Not sure where the urge is coming from, but I never mean to hurt her, or use it to dominate her in any way.
posted by jcruden at 5:48 AM on December 17, 2005

Oh, I definitely get this urge. I bite my dog, usually on his collar so I can get a really satisfying chomp without hurting him.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:16 AM on December 17, 2005

one of the best things in life is biting your significant other's juicy, round bubbly ass
posted by PenguinBukkake at 6:23 AM on December 17, 2005

i have that too, i want to use my jaw like a wolf every now and then..
in my brain it's the exactly same satisfying and reminding feeling as touching sand or stone textures or wood after taking off gloves
posted by suni at 6:34 AM on December 17, 2005

I'm a husband-biter. Shoulder, mostly.
posted by redfoxtail at 6:59 AM on December 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

Kids with Lesch-Nyhan syndrome often bite compulsively; they can bite off their fingers, in some cases biting off most of their hands. They also bite off their lips and tongues.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:04 AM on December 17, 2005

My husband bites my forearm or pinky fingers. Just randomly -- we'll be watching the tube and he'll pick up my arm and give it a gentle bite. He'll then smack his lips and say "you're so tender and juicy."

I have had the urge to bite someone who has pissed me off. the upthread "hindbrain" description sounds about right.
posted by macadamiaranch at 7:05 AM on December 17, 2005

posted by caddis at 7:06 AM on December 17, 2005

I have the urge to bite baby bottoms sometimes. If they're really cute and pudgy, which they usually are.
posted by iconomy at 7:08 AM on December 17, 2005

Oh, man yes. I have a big oral fixation, so chewing is part of it, but I like to give love-bites too (and get them!). When I was little I would gently bite my babysitter on the arm, kind of like soft-mouthed puppies do. Bless the woman, she just laughed and let me.
posted by kalimac at 7:36 AM on December 17, 2005

Definitely, my husband and I bite each other rather frequently. I see it as an expression of affection.

With reference to biting babies bottoms, I've noticed that women will tend to use food metaphors when discussing babies, "she's so delicious I could eat her up." You'll never hear men discussing babies in this manner.
posted by TorontoSandy at 7:36 AM on December 17, 2005

Ditto the "ex-girlfriend was a biter." If she was in a good mood, she would want to bite me. If she was in a bad mood, she would bite spoons. Well, not just bite - chew. If they were plastic spoons, they would come out mostly shredded up. Metal ones were just dented a little.
posted by heresiarch at 7:50 AM on December 17, 2005

I've got the biting urge as well.
posted by adamwolf at 7:53 AM on December 17, 2005

I'm more of a nibbler, but yeah this is me.
posted by jessamyn at 8:03 AM on December 17, 2005

Yup, my girlfriend and I do the casual biting thing, and I've often joked about wanting to bring a dog chew toy into work so I have something to chew on. And if it seems a little odd to you, think about all the times you've seen someone chewing on a pen or some such item. I'd suspect it's a pretty common urge.
posted by KirTakat at 8:12 AM on December 17, 2005

I've noticed that women will tend to use food metaphors when discussing babies

Me too - definitely. I threaten babies with "I'm gonna eat you up" all the time. They love it. I wonder why men never want to eat babies. Weirdos.
posted by iconomy at 8:42 AM on December 17, 2005 [3 favorites]

Biting is all fun and games until the biter starts going hard enough to leave marks in places that are openly exposed at the workplace. Coworkers, not surprisingly, generally think this is a weird thing, and not an innocous one. Train your biters!
posted by VulcanMike at 9:03 AM on December 17, 2005

Reading this thread made me need to bite my arm - my boyfriend is still asleep so I can't gnaw on him. Yep, we're biters in my house. I bite more than my boyfriend, but we both get in on the action. We don't do it to hurt or leave marks, though - our preferences just don't tend that way. It's more of a hey! how you doin? thing, when we're sitting on the couch or making dinner or whatnot.

I generally only want to bite the ones I love, not people I'm angry at - I wouldn't want to have some asshole's arm in my mouth. Far too intimate!
posted by hilatron at 9:16 AM on December 17, 2005

i have frequent urges to chomp down on an arm or something. when my boyfriend is in a generous mood, he'll offer up his arm for me to chomp down on.
posted by booknerd at 10:02 AM on December 17, 2005

My housemates and I once sat around the dining room table contentedly chewing on some cubes of foam packing material that had been lying around, but we're hardly great yardsticks of normalcy.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:08 AM on December 17, 2005

Seconding/thirding/whatever the "I'm gonna eat you up!" expressions towards babies -- I'm always nibbling on my nephews' pudgy little hands and toes and tummies (well, the 6-year-old won't let me any more, but his little brothers still do), and they always laugh and laugh. (Especially if it follows a lively game of chase around the living room and dining room.)

It's also pretty common for me to get the urge to bite a SO as an expression of affection, also in a "you're so adorable I could eat you up" way. This usually results in nibbles and even some chomping on neck/shoulders/upper arms. (My current boyfriend has the most incredibly chompable arms I've ever seen -- I'm a bit of an arm/shoulder woman, as you can tell! -- and there are times where I feel like I'd be perfectly happy just nibbling away on his fabulous biceps for an evening.) This definitely translates into an enjoyment of being nibbled similarly in return -- though not to the degree described by Clay201.
posted by scody at 10:13 AM on December 17, 2005

I remember as a child biting being play, and I suppose that's one of the reasons I still enjoy biting girlfriends. Don't think it's particularly odd, though you should check with your brother to see exactly how deep he wants to bite. And whom.
posted by Football Bat at 10:22 AM on December 17, 2005

Apparently caddis and I are the only ones on mefi without this compulsion. Who knew?
posted by selfmedicating at 10:44 AM on December 17, 2005

Best answer: You are all bewilderingly, utterly, unspeakably, insane.
posted by phrontist at 10:45 AM on December 17, 2005 [9 favorites]

I get the urge to randomly bite now and then, often when drinking or playful. (Usually only my partner tho.)
"Hey, can I chomp your arm?"
"Dunno, just feel like biting something."
"Okay, I guess."
Mostly just a little pressure but now and then quite hard. When my husband and I were first dating we'd regularly bite each other hard enough to bruise, which was very intense, but have since eased up a lot.

We nibble on the babies, which they thoroughly enjoy.
posted by Melinika at 10:51 AM on December 17, 2005

Me too, mostly shoulders, but i've never wanted to as an expression of anger or frustration.
posted by Ugh at 11:20 AM on December 17, 2005

Wow. My six-year-old son has said, three or five times, "Dad, I've just gotta bite someone's ear! How am I going to bite an ear?" I don't if this thread makes me more or less concerned.
posted by LarryC at 11:21 AM on December 17, 2005

Man, count me in as a biter when I'm drinking. There's some sensory pleasure about gnawing on something when I drink. it was more when I was younger than now, but it felt like I was teething after two many drinks.
posted by Zosia Blue at 11:39 AM on December 17, 2005

TOO many, that is.
posted by Zosia Blue at 11:39 AM on December 17, 2005

My S.O. is a biter. It's really awesome. :)
posted by By The Grace of God at 12:43 PM on December 17, 2005

My ex and I used to bite each other. No big deal. It's just like a little kiss, but firmer. We pet, squeeze, kiss, lick... why not bite? I've never thought of it as taboo in the SO realm, only in the friends realm. Then again, I don't get the urge to bite friends usually so the issue of taboo doesn't come up.

Except once, when I was in an improv class and we were told to just do whatever we felt like. I bit a friend of mine's arm (opposite sex). Then apologized. I was sheepish.
posted by lorrer at 2:21 PM on December 17, 2005

I am a repressed biter. I bit my own arm so hard one time that I left a noticeable bruise. (*Rolls eyes*) Unfortunately, my daughter seems to have inherited this tendency, as she is also a biter, though not at all repressed. She has bitten her friends and her bf's, although none of them seemed too concerned about it.
posted by Lynsey at 3:07 PM on December 17, 2005

A friend of mine bit me once, and it was kind of a surprise. So, I bit her back. Hard.
posted by matkline at 3:30 PM on December 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

I never really thought of myself as a biter, but I chew pens like a mofo. That may be a marginally more socially acceptable outlet for this urge.
posted by gsteff at 3:38 PM on December 17, 2005

My 'friend' Sean and I sometimes bite each other fingers, gently, of course. I don't know, it just seems like a cutesy semi-intimate thing to do.
posted by Amanda B at 3:45 PM on December 17, 2005

Yes! I'm not a freak, thank you, AskMeFi. I used to bite my ex-boyfriend's arm all the time and he hated it - I'd only bite him hard enough to leave marks when he'd whine about how he didn't like it. And I constantly chew on my thumb knuckles and wrists and forearms when I'm on the computer.
posted by ruevian at 4:33 PM on December 17, 2005

Um, well I have had the urge to bite people, especially if they are pissing me off. I'm being serious, I've actually thought to myself "what if I just bit them, right now?". I think that may be some kind of primitive/animalistic anger response. But in your case, I'd say it's just an urge to chew on something which is way common. I, for instance must chew on plastic soda straws. Weird, I know.
posted by katyggls at 8:32 PM on December 17, 2005

me, bites, too. Always sober, always in the most affectionate manner I can express myself. Never hurtful though. I once bit someone's toe because I wanted her to be my friend. I bite myself (lips and fingers) regularly.
posted by carmina at 9:03 PM on December 17, 2005

Another biter, here. For me, the satisfaction is all in the jaw, not the teeth. Sadly, my husband hates being bitten and is always joking that he's going to bring home a sex-gimp to live in the basement just waiting for me to go gnaw upon. Sounds like Clay201 knows just the people I should talk to. I'd be tempted, if biting was even remotely sexual to me. It's not. It's just a jaw-sensation that needs relieving -- very much like an itch.
posted by arielmeadow at 9:07 PM on December 17, 2005

There's a certain waitress I want to bite. Otherwise, no.
posted by neuron at 9:14 PM on December 17, 2005

We're biters in this house... we call them "tooth hugs."

I read this post first thing this morning & I've wanted to chew on my husband all day because it got me *thinking* about biting. I made cookies instead. Just not the same... (although they are very tasty).
posted by susanbeeswax at 9:49 PM on December 17, 2005

You know how people sometimes say (mainly to babies) "You're so cute I just wanna eat you up"? I think this is somehow connected to this. It's some kind of primeval urge that may occur in some people, in connection with feelings of affection and/or power.
It also reminds me of hearing how some exuberant feline mothers will lick their cubs/kittens so hard that a bald patch is created.
As for me, I just got my first hickey on Saturday.
posted by Radio7 at 5:36 AM on December 18, 2005

I'm not really interested in biting, but I chew a lot. There is no plastic pen in my house that hasn't either been totally shattered or "chewed to buggery" as we say here in the UK. It's pretty much the only odd habit I have though. I think it might be connected to anxiety.
posted by wackybrit at 5:55 AM on December 18, 2005

I recall sitting in a bar years ago with a woman I was casually (barely) dating. She suddenly leant over and bit my arm, quite hard, leaving clear indentations. I was shocked (and it hurt) but suddenly I could see a whole new realm of sexual play. It's been wonderful (but not with her).
posted by johngumbo at 3:12 PM on December 18, 2005

I'll bite an arm every now and then. It's fun. :-)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:42 PM on December 20, 2005 [1 favorite]

another (if surreal) form of expressing intimacy

There's forms of expressing intimacy.

And then there's feeling intimacy toward the supermarket checker.

There are perhaps two questions at work here.

But regarding biting: I don't bite just anyone. I don't even bite everyone I love. But if I'm in the act of loving you, your chances are good. Even so, I'm a polite biter. I only kinda regret it if my partner isn't into being bitten. It's not like I'm driven to do it to all of them.

And I know the difference between a skin nip and a muscle bite. I know how *not* to mash your fascia between my teeth and exactly how to make an impression long enough for it to show up for a couple hours but no more. I know how not to bruise you, or to bruise you superficially if that's what it's going to take. I also know where in your body bruising is likely and how to work with/around that. It's fun, after all, to compare bite marks as the candles burn down and the night goes out, but few want a sore scar on their ass at work tomorrow.

And then there is non-sexual ordinary biting. There is definitely a brain function somewhere between these sensations (some of them animalistic, bear with me):

1) I want to taste that/ I want to see how soft that is / I want to see how far down that look of softness goes and where the bone's at

2) I want to grab a hold of that an move it where it needs to be

3) I want to grab a hold of that and see if it kicks and if it does, whether I can hang onto it or what

4) I want to give that a nibble and see if it submits. Oh. It did. I wonder how much it would submit to? [nibbles/bites harder]

5) (this is the strangest of all and strictly a human thing) I think that shit wants me to bite it as hard as possible - I better perform, quick

I urge you to consider how easily your jaw/teeth can shread the food you eat. It's horrifying to imagine how little effort it would take to hamstring someone with your teeth, or take a cresent-shaped bite out of their bicep, but the fact remains that the jaw is built strong with well-toned muscles and a high-leverage design for a reason. You can't image that there isn't software to go along with that hardware.

Some of it is subduing enemies, some of it is about subduing mates. Sexual mates haven't always been friends, after all. We're descended from savages. Go figure. I will refrain from asseting that we're wired for rape, but have you ever seen animals have sex? Sheeit, it's violent. The neck biting is intense, along the lines of: "either let my soft tissues invade your soft tissues, or my hard tissues will fuck up your soft tissues." --easy choice.

Considering how much of our instinctual animal lingers on in an oppressed, deprecated status, it's not all that surprising that we want to bite people from time to time. The biting behavior is in fact quite easy to trace, and only notable where it peeks up from the surface of acceptability and expresses itself in strange ways.

[bites mathowie's ass]
posted by scarabic at 9:58 PM on December 20, 2005 [5 favorites]

Bite me.

No, seriously. Feel free.
posted by loquacious at 3:16 AM on December 21, 2005

*throws scarabic a raw steak, runs the hell ouf thread*
posted by PenguinBukkake at 3:05 AM on December 22, 2005

"ouf" = "out of", in a hurry
posted by PenguinBukkake at 3:05 AM on December 22, 2005

I definitely enjoy inflicting or receiving soft nibbling of earlobes, neck, fingers, hands, and pelvis as foreplay.

The darker part of me is aware that if I ever felt the need to torture someone it would be by slowly chewing off their face starting with the eyelids. But I'm a teddy bear, really.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:50 PM on June 14, 2006

I never considered myself a biter, until I read this and started thinking... I suppose I am in some way. I know I once bit through a cup (one of those heavy cheap pottery ones) when I was drinking out of it, rather spontaneously. I didn't expect to break it but... And it was at a realitive-in-laws house. I was so shocked I hit the remains in the garbage. (shame).
I bite pens and my fingers all the time, I mock bite my SO, and seriously chew my finger nails a lot even though I don't consider myself a particular nervous person. Books are fun to bite.. cripes it's a good thing I don't obsess over this or I'd be concerned. heh
posted by edgeways at 6:15 PM on June 14, 2006

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