(frequently asked questions)

Ever since this site had been created I've received numerous e-mails asking me about all sorts of issues related to adult thumb sucking. This section is a compilation of the most frequently asked questions. Hopefully it's extensive enough to cover all the issues. If you have a question that isn't handled here, please e-mail me and I will address it.

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Terms used:

ATS - adult thumb or finger suckers(ing), or referring to our adult thumbsucking site.

Tsing - thumb sucking or finger sucking

Tser - thumb or finger sucker

Table of Contents

Why do we suck our thumbs or fingers?

Will I ever stop or will it continue for the rest of my life?

Should I stop?

Why haven't I stopped like so many others have?

Does hypnosis work to stop my habit?

Are there any thumb suckers anonymous style support groups?

I thought I was the only one. How many adult thumb suckers are there?

What about it affecting my teeth?

My callus is embarrassing, what should I do?

I'm going away to college and will have a roomate. What should I do? NEW QUESTION

Is something wrong with me because I still suck my thumb?

I use a blankie while sucking. What's that about?

How do I handle someone finding out?

Should I tell my significant other?

Can thumb sucking enhance my life?

Why does society have such a social taboo against it?

What is the best method to stop?

I hate myself because I suck my thumb. How can I deal with these feelings?

Will sucking my thumb in front of my children be harmful?

Is it true that some people may find my thumb sucking attractive?

Are there other sites like this one?

Will showing this site to others help them to understand me better?

Does sucking my thumb or finger lead to increased amounts of colds and infections?

Do males have a harder time being accepted than females?

Why do we suck our thumbs or fingers?

For most ATS it comes down to habit. When we were children, tsing gave us a lot of pleasure, satisfying the sucking instinct and even possibly compensating for less nurturance than we may have needed but, as we got older, this satisfying behavior became a habit. As such, we learned to associate it with certain comforting needs that we all share. These associations help to relieve psychological stress. We also retained its usefulness in helping us go to sleep under a variety of conditions and moods. We’ve also found that, by relaxing us, it helps us to concentrate better. All these benefits, over a lifetime, only encouraged us to continue.

Other factors that may have enabled us to continue concern our ability to hide it. Additionally, for most ATS, its benefits outweighed any dental affects. In other words, the cost/benefit ratio was weighted towards the benefit end of the spectrum. In some rare cases, the benefits combined with a confident personality and this combination enabled the ATS to indulge, even in public or in front of trusted friends or family members.

There have been a good number of cases where large percentages of siblings are ATSers. A major tying theme in these families has been alcoholism on the part of the parents, particulary the father. Some cases mentioned drug dependency among one or more of the siblings and so this, too, may play a part in certain situations. Another aspect which may serve to further cement the habit, in these kinds of cases, involve issues of emotional neglect on the part of the parent(s) when the ATS was a child. Tsing may have provided feelings of safety and/or security for these individuals. These same adaptations carried into adulthood.

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Will I ever stop or will it continue for the rest of my life?

For most adults, tsing is very difficult to stop. The associations built up over a lifetime entrench the habit very deeply within our personality. However, there have been many who have stopped, usually due to dental effects or at the incessant urging of a significant person. The statistics show a general fall-off after 50 years of age, though that may be more due to a statistical fluke than anything else. There have been known instances of individuals tsing into old age also. A woman doctor ATS, age 80, is quoted in this site. If you find the costs significantly outweighing the benefits, you may find that your motivation to stop will overcome the habit, though there are many cases where, during times of emotional trauma, the habit reemerged. But, is that so bad?

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Should I stop?

This is a very individual matter of course. Tsing is a very cheap, convenient and effective way to calm oneself or to achieve sleep regardless of the situation. It often puts one in a state of instant meditation, with physiological similarities such as reduction of heart rate and more. The risks, though small, involve changes in the occlusion and possible infections from uncleaned fingers. On the other hand (the one you may prefer *smile*), if you’re still tsing by adulthood, chances are your occlusion has stabilized. Tsers are also wary about getting their preferred finger(s) or thumb dirty and many of them keep their favorite digit clean or even wash their hands before indulging. Most ATS agree that, even if their teeth have moved a bit, the resultant occlusion makes it more comfortable to ts, and therefore it’s worth the benefits.

The main reason that ATS want to stop has to do with a combination of the negative social definitions associated with this behavior and the poor self image derived by believing that they are alone in this behavior. Despite the fact that the stereotype doesn't fit the details (one need only to explore the rest of this site to conclude this) the public generally believes that an adult who sucks their thumb is immature or psychologically unsound. Usually, though, when an ATS happens upon this site there is great relief in knowing, finally, that they are far from alone. Still, most ATS don't feel the habit is worth suffering the resultant social stigmas and, so, they "closet" the practice.

Stopping involves many questions. If you are confident enough to withstand the usually short-lived reactions of those that learn of your habit for the first time you've eliminated one of the major reasons for anxiety (read the article on embarrassment for more details on this). If you realize that there are numerous ATS in this world, perhaps millions, you needn't feel "weird", since this habit is quite human and the other ATS are as normal as most others, something you can confirm by writing to those listed in the Pen Pal Section. If you can come to terms with the fact that your tsing enhances your life by providing an easy means of tension relief and sleep production, you will accept its definate benefits. If you conclude that those who love you should accept you for who you are, you won't put your tsing in the category that lessens your worth. And finally, if you love yourself, you will be able to accept who you are on your terms, not on the terms of others. Accepting who we are, and we are only partially ATSers, is the basis of inner peace.

Invariably, the motivation to stop is usually derived from outside ourselves and that is why it is so hard to stop. We enjoy tsing. It makes us feel good. It's essentially harmless and doesn't interfere with the rights of others, like smoking does. So, ask yourself first why you want to stop. If you think about it, the reasons to stop don't compare to the reasons not to stop. But, as said above, this is something that you need to decide for yourself.

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Why haven't I stopped like so many others have?

Usually people who have been able to withstand the demands to stop have continued because they were very good at hiding it from others and thereby being able to derive the benefits without having any associated negative reinforcements from others. In some cases the habit ceased due to braces that, once fitted, removed the pleasurable sensations the tser felt without them. Others never felt the need to stop because their families tolerated the habit well. Still, some, the confident ones, have had the attitude that they have a right to ts, especially since they weren't hurting anyone. In fact, with these kinds of individuals, if anyone suggested that they stop, they’ve felt that that decision was solely up to them and that other's should, "mind their own business." With others, the need to continue was so powerful, due perhaps to psychological dependency, that stopping was out of the question. Some continued because they’ve felt it to be a part of who they are or were uneasy, even ill, without it. Basically, though, it’s another case of benefits outweighing costs.

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Does hypnosis work to stop my habit?

With hypnosis, a lot depends both on one’s motivation and psychodynamics as well as the ability of the hypnotist and the rapport you have with him or her. In the majority of cases, with adults, it is, at best, temporarily effective unless the ATS is highly motivated to stop. Hypnosis is not magic. You can’t be hypnotised into doing, or not doing, anything you don’t agree with.

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Are there any thumb suckers anonymous style support groups?

Besides this site, which is the major location, anywhere, addressing this issue, there are now other places on the Net where attempts have been made to share experiences and feelings on this topic. Besides the Internet experience, there are no known support groups devoted entirely to this subject. From this site, "...and Then Thumb", the primary areas in which you can share your feelings with others is in the Forum Area, entered from the Home Page and Pen Pal Section. If you want to start your own support group, check out the Pen Pal Section, announce it at the Forum, put an add in the local papers, and try it. Write to me and tell me about how it's going.

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I thought I was the only one. How many adult thumb suckers are there?

There are no known, scientifically determined, answers to this question, only educated guesses but the numbers must be higher than anyone would have guessed.

Immediately after this site was featured on the nationally televised program “Extra” for only 8 minutes, four times in May of 1999, it was deluged with thousands of “hits”. Prior to the show the site averaged 300 or so hits a week, immediately afterward the site averaged from 800 to 900 hits per week, peaking one week at over 2,300. (It now averages 1100-1300 hits per week, as of 12/25/00.) Of these hits, about 140 surveys were filled out where the survey participant indicated that they’ve heard of the site from that show. The producer of Extra wouldn’t tell me the exact number of viewers during those particular shows, but indicated that, during prime time, there are upwards of 3 million people watching, typically. I’d guess that one in four ATS visiting the site take the time to fill out and successfully send the survey. One should also realize that there are still many homes without access to the Internet. Based on this limited experience, I’d guess there are 200,000 or more ATS in the United States and millions worldwide. But there may be more, a lot more.

It is interesting to note that the United Kingdom seems to have a much more tolerant attitude about ATS. In much correspondence with those living or visiting there, as well as other English speaking countries like New Zealand and Australia, public ATS is far more common than anywhere else I know of. As such, I’d guess that there is a higher percentage of ATS there than anywhere else. But I think you should have at least one more reason to move to any of those places, don’t you?

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What about it affecting my teeth?

There are certain known effects that are possible with prolonged tsing. A lot depends on one’s style, that is, the frequency, duration and force of sucking as well as the method of placement of the thumb/finger upon the dental structure and the force that the digit places on which particular teeth. The great majority of ATS exhibit, according to themselves, little to no malocclusion according to the survey at this site. Included in this statement are those who have successfully gone through orthodontia work at a younger age. However, for those who have been dentally affected there is a range from mild to severe. The following possibilities can occur with prolonged thumbsucking, but remember, these effects occur in our formative years, if they occur at all. In other words, if you don’t have them by now, you probably never will:

1) Open Bite, as the dental arch forms it’s possible that, due to finger placement, the teeth will not grow together. The dental section at this site depicts some of the more severe cases, but what it means is that, with the teeth clench shut, there is space between the top teeth (maxillary) and bottom (mandibular). In extreme cases the finger can easily reach the tongue with the teeth clenched shut.

2) Overjet, otherwise known as “buck teeth”. Depending on tsing technique, the two front top teeth, the maxillary incisors, can be forced forward. If forced forward enough, the lips and tongue, as well as the skeletal muscles around the mouth, work to enhance this affect, forcing them further forward.

3) Cross Bite, this is where, with tsing, the rear top teeth, the posterior maxillaries, are pushed inside the frame of the bottom teeth, towards the tongue, usually due to the force of the cheek muscles creating a vector against these teeth during sucking. In most of the cases the cross bite occurs on the opposite side as the predominant sucked digit. Righties will have a left side cross bite, usually, if at all.

4) Narrowed Palate, the sucking action causes the cheek muscles to push the top teeth towards the tongue, creating a narrower palate.

5) High Palatal Vault, this is where the palate doesn’t reach its expected position due to upward pressure from the thumb. As such, the palate is higher than expected. In extreme cases this can prevent the nose from growing downward, as it does with age, creating a tipped up nose, a condition that can also occur if finger pressure is constantly pushing the nose tip upward. Again, in extreme cases, the tipping is so apparent that one can look up the nostrils of the tser so affected, when the tser is facing frontally.

6) Tongue Thrust, when swallowing, normally the tongue projects to the top of the palate with the lips providing the neccessary seal needed in order to swallow. Tsers, though, learn to swallow their saliva, while sucking, by projecting their tongue forward, since the thumb is between the tongue and the roof of the mouth. Additionally, this tongue action is reinforced by the sucking action. This learned adaptation becomes a habit so that, even without the thumb or finger in the mouth, the tongue continues to push forward while swallowing. The tongue, then, acts to push the front teeth, the incisors, forward. Additionally, this habit may result in improper use of the tongue when forming certain sounds, creating a lisp in some, few, tsers.

Remember, though, that most of the time, these effects occur while the dental structures are developing in one’s formative years. The question is, will an orthodontist be able to correct malocclusions due to tsing while continuing the habit? The general consensus is, no. Even though there have been ATS who have written indicating that they had indulged during orthodontia, it isn’t advisable, not if you want the appliance to work. So, the real question concerns whether the benefits derived from tsing exceeds the effects of malocclusion or “unbalanced” muscle use during swallowing. This is a personal decision, of course, but, if one’s health is threatened, i.e., mouth infections due to difficulty in keeping one’s teeth cleaned as a result of a malocclusion, it is worth attempting orthodontia. There have been several cases brought to my attention where the individual restarted their tsing after dental work was completed. These people were able to retain the benefits of proper occlusion with the use of a retainer while tsing.

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My callus is embarrassing, what should I do?

Your callus is there as a result of your style of digit sucking. It forms when your teeth rub against or put pressure on the skin. It’s protects you and makes tsing more comfortable than it would be without it. ATS who don’t have a callus usually place their tongue between their teeth and their finger, or put very little finger pressure on their teeth. Unless you can stop tsing or change your style, it will stay there. Most of your acquaintances, if they notice it, think that it is a result of an injury or based on something you do at your job, if they think anything at all.

If you're embarrassed by it, however, I urge you to read the essay at this site on embarrassment.

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I'm going away to college and will have a roomate, what should I do? [Note, this answer was supplied by one of our fans, Ruth. Her excellent contributions, typically, hit home and come from a lifetime of wisdom and experience-Webmaster]

I understand your concern about roommates completely. Here in the United States, sharing a room in college is considered the standard way, not the old-fashioned way. And believe me, people find all sorts of ways to do secret, private things without their roommates knowing, sometimes while the roommates are right there in the room with them.

I shared a room with a girl for three years in college, and sucked my thumb probably every day we were living together. I didn't really make any special effort to hide my habit from her, but if she noticed, she never commented.

Here are some things that may help:

-- put your bed higher than eye level and sleep with your face to the wall. If they are allowed, sleep on a loft. If the beds are bunked, insist on the top.

-- Everyone brings something to college that reminds them of home: pictures, care packages, high school awards, whatever. Pass off your blanket or lovey as something like this. If you tell people that the lovey is a childhood something that you brought to decorate the room, they will believe you. If you tell them it's something that you have to stroke or risk losing your sanity, they will believe that, too.

-- if you are worried about slurping or stroking noises, sleep with a fan blowing or radio playing or something.

-- Find some time when your roommate is in class or somewhere when you can have the room to yourself and you can suck away or do whatever else it is that is private.

--If the room is occupied, there is always ALWAYS a reasonably private place on a college campus. If not your dorm room, an empty classroom, study carrel in the library, vacant lounge, even a restroom stall. When you really need to suck your thumb during the day, choose one of these places instead of your dorm room. And pack your blanket or lovey in your bookbag so you will have it on campus if you need it.

-- Hang out in these public-but-alone refuges if you know you are going to be doing something that triggers thumbsucking. For example, I liked to suck my thumb and twirl my hair when I read my schoolbooks. So I studied in private, or if I had to read in public, I made sure to busy my hands with a pen or hilighter. I also really wanted my thumb on particularly stressful days, so I stayed away from the dorm until I was completely unwound.

-- realize that there is a chance you will be caught, and prepare for it. if someone catches you, don't deny it or apologize for it or swear them to secrecy or try to rationalize it. Just say, matter-of-factly that they are correct, you WERE sucking your thumb. Kind of as if they had discovered that you were left handed or double jointed or something. If they look at you like you're crazy, just act natural, like they are the ones who are misinformed, but it's not really worth your time or effort to educate them about your little quirk.

-- Understand that you aren't the only one with a secret or the only one yearning for privacy. Even if your roomate is a good friend, give them some time alone in the room, respect their rules about going through their things, and by all means learn to deal with any kind of idiosyncracies they may have without poking fun or nagging. If you know something that might embarrass them, don't even let on that you know.

Chances are, your roomie is going to great pains to keep something a secret from you that is so trivial, so unimportant, that if you found out you would forget about it the next day. My roommate, who was very small, didn't want people to know that she still wore little girls underpants with little tiny flowers or cartoons on them. This is probably what thumbsucking is to them. Nothing for them to worry about unless you are worried about it.

Is something wrong with me because I still suck my thumb?

Thumb sucking alone does not necessarily mean that something is wrong with you. It’s a coping mechanism and a habit. You probably have some problems, but so does most everyone. But again, taken alone, it doesn’t absolutely mean something is wrong with you. It could be part of a cluster of coping mechanisms, some of which may be self defeating. For that you may need to search inside yourself. If you can afford it, a psychotherapist may be of help in that department but so can friends. Remember though, most ATS are just like everyone else, really.

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I use a blankie while sucking. What's that about?

According to the statistics derived from the survey at this site 33% of ATS, or so, use an accessory object of some sort while tsing. This is a carry over from when you did this during childhood. It’s origin is probably linked with the association or need for motherly affection, but as you’ve gotten older it became, in addition to habit, something else, though its roots probably share similarities. Often tsing involves the sense of touch and/or smell. The accessory object, usually something soft, may be able to retain pleasant odors that you’ve come to tie in with your tsing. As a tension reliever many times the object is rubbed, twirled or otherwise manipulated. It may include such objects as a shirt, towel, “blankie”, or even one’s own hair, and lots more. Refer to the Statistics Section for a compilation of the various objects we use. For those so inclined these objects enhance the experience and, often, tsing can not be done with satisfaction without them.

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How do I handle someone finding out?

Most of the time, if someone “catches” you, assuming you want to hide the fact that you are a tser, you can easily avoid any potentially compromising situation by simply taking your thumb or finger out of your mouth, or slipping it out enough to appear like your biting your fingernails or cleaning your teeth.

But there are those times when you can’t use subterfuge, like if you’re caught while asleep. Most people you know will keep their discovery to themselves out of respect for your feelings, which explains the numerous cases I’ve come in contact with where the spouses never talked about it, even though they both knew.

I’ll never forget the case where a woman, in her 60’s, fell asleep at her church, during mass. She was gently awoken by the person sitting at her side. Her thumb was firmly planted while she opened her eyes to the stares of many parishioners. At least she made them smile that day, though I believe some may have been giggling a bit. Yes, embarrassing. But you know what? She survived. After all, there are far worse things one can build a reputation around, though it’s understandable that you don’t want your tsing to be the main point of focus. And, after awhile, it won’t be.

People have more on their mind than the fact that you suck your thumb or finger. At most, it may be either temporarily amusing or interesting to them, but after it’s all over, people go on with their lives. A good example of this dynamic concerns cases where the ATS doesn’t give a hoot about what other people think. I’m referring to those who indulge publicly. These people are discussed in more detail at the site, under the names Olivia, Elly, and Cydniey. In every case, people simply got used to it and didn’t care. In a couple of cases, friends started to do it themselves, so you might say that the ATS was a good influence! In the show, “Extra”, during an episode where they focused on ATS, a woman, Amy, was featured. She handled the front desk in an office and sucked her thumb while at work. Amy had no qualms about doing her thing in front of anyone. One of her fellow workers said that she was jealous and wished that she, herself, could sometimes suck her thumb! So see? You’ll survive!

The point is to use your sense of humor. It really isn’t the end of the world and, in fact, being found out can be relieving, if you have the right attitude. After all, if they all know, that means you can indulge to your heart's content!

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Should I tell my significant other?

To answer simply, yes. If couples are in love, or are good friends, it’s to be expected that there’d be a large measure of trust and consideration of feelings going on. In the vast majority of cases, this small “eccentricity” was all ado about nothing. Think about it, if telling them results in some sort of rift, what does that say about the value of your relationship? In fact, telling them should be taken as a compliment. It says that you trust them enough with your “big” secret, so much that you believe that they’ll love you even if you have a “weakness” or two, doesn’t it? You might say that sucking your thumb is a sort of test for those you know. If they can’t accept you doing that, how are they going to accept the inevitable, larger, differences that occur during the course of a relationship?

And, who knows, you may be in for a welcome surprise. I know of a case where, upon divulging, the woman was happily greeted by the fact that her boyfriend, also, was an ATS! Makes you wonder just how big this secret really is, doesn’t it? I’ll tell ya, sometimes I think ATSers would make great spies, considering how well they can operate so stealthily.

Finally, consider the following e-mail left at the Forum by an anonymous contributor:

It IS possible to scope the dating scene with your thumb in your mouth. (Well, actually I wouldn't plug up my mouth during the actual scoping. In private, during the cuddling, is better.) I know you're not asking for advice. But in the interest of sharing, I'll tell you how I incorporated my habit into day-to-day reality. ( I am 24 years old and married a college boyfriend six months ago, but this formula worked for all the boyfriends I got at all close to. )

First, suck away in front of Sweetie when you feel comfortable doing it, but don't ever do it just to test their reaction, and don't precede your actions with some long, grave confession. Try to introduce your habit to them in the same way you would any other personal quirk, such as a allergy or phobia. No big deal. If they react as if thumbsucking IS a big deal, don't get defensive. Just try not to do it in front of them. Take your thumb out if they ask you to. Or, if you don't want to take it out, go somewhere where you can be by yourself.

Have my men really liked the thumb-sucking part of me? No. But they tolerate it, the same way I tolerate my husband's flipping throught the television channels at 100 miles an hour or his habit of forgetting to use his napkin.

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Can thumb sucking enhance my life?

Like anything, it depends on how you think of it. I’ve received many e-mails from people whose attitude completely changed once they realized that they weren’t alone in their tsing. Prior to visiting the site, they thought of themselves as some sort of weird, crazy person, just because they suck their thumb. The relief, when finding out that they were far from alone, was instantaneous. They began to realize that they had an advantage, much as someone well practiced in the art of meditation. They could easily comfort themselves and relieve stress without having to spend a bundle or take drugs. And, if they relieve their stress through positive things, like exercise and so forth, they could still do so by sucking their thumb or finger. Unlike the dangerous or self defeating methods that too many adults chose to calm themselves down, like cigarettes or over-eating, their method doesn’t interfere with other healthy forms of tension relief and, most of all, doesn’t have definite deleterious side effects, except for occasionally changing their teeth. It has been scientifically determined that tsing lowers the heart rate, a symptom of a relaxed state, a healthy state of mind and body. And, actually, for the great majority of ATS, those minor teeth changes make tsing more comfortable without the threat of harm, especially when compared to the other, more socially acceptable, “adult” methods of tension relief.

Some women were amazed that most guys find their tsing “cute”, even attractive. Women don’t often understand this, but it’s true. I’ve had several guys write in to say that their significant other found the same to be true of their tsing.

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So, if it’s so OK, then why is it such a big deal to other people? Why does society have such a social taboo against it?

Our youth oriented culture only goes so far. While youth is valued, at least as far as health and appearance goes, maturity is too. Tsing is associated with something that only babies do, so societal values place this behavior in the realm of immaturity. This is a stereotype, of course, since people of all ages suck their thumb or finger and, if maturity can be measured by the amount of responsibilty one manages, it may be of interest to know that most ATS have finished college, own their own businesses, have families and more. However, due to this social constraint, as the tser ages, the habit goes into hiding. This is done to avoid the anxiety of having an image imposed by cultural values that is not only untrue but conflicts with one’s own self-image.

The other social taboo factor may originate in the perceived costs a parent my anticipate with this habit. Once one’s adult teeth start erupting, the habit can cause changes in the dental structure. Parents don’t like big dental bills and the biggest ones are usually from orthodontists. In order to head off these bills, parents will attempt to stop the habit before dental factors set in. In their attempts they may tell their child that this behavior of theirs is, "babyish", with the hope that this negative depiction would provide a sufficient motivation to stop.

Finally, there’s the notion that if a child is still tsing by a certain age, especially if indulging publicly, the parent is concerned that this behavior may reflect on their ability as a parent. This is the old, “What will the neighbors think?” syndrome. With this kind of thought process it may become a control issue where the parent is concerned. In the parent's mind the observation that they have an older tser may mean that others may suspect that they can’t control their progeny. For these kinds of parents tsing is very threatening and their efforts to curtail their kid’s tsing often results in some amazing psychological torture for those hapless tsers. Sometimes, based on the e-mails I’ve received, the negative effects of this kind of parental treatment, like poor self image, lasts a lifetime. We are taught early that tsing isn't accepted by our authority figures.

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What is the best method to stop?

There are no best methods to stop. Once you’ve reached adulthood, the habit is quite ingrained into your person. You need to be very motivated to stop. There are numerous sites which go into the various techniques used to stop thumb sucking and they are easily found with the use of any search engine. This site focuses on the other point of view, that tsing may be such a good thing that continuing is actually an advantage. However, for the purpose of completeness, we'll review some of the more common techniques used to stop thumb sucking range:

1) Covering the thumb/finger or attaching a reminder

This involves the use of gloves or ribbons or something such to remind you that your’re tsing. The idea behind this is to give you a chance to not ts by bringing an unconscious act into consciousness. By doing this long enough, the thinking goes, you’ll eventually rid yourself of the habit aspect. The problem with this technique is that it is most effective during waking hours. Most adults are aware of their urges while awake and therefore maintain the necessary control in public. Besides, how would you explain wearing gloves inside while visiting your relatives, friends or associates? I know what you can say, “I’ve decided that Michael Jackson was right, there ARE germs everywhere and they’re trying to get me!” I think I’d be more concerned about my image if using that explanation than if someone thought I sucked my thumb! But, seriously, gloves or other kinds of reminders can help if you suck your thumb during the day while alone, if you wear them, assuming the habit doesn’t reemerge when you finally take them off.

2) Using bitter chemicals

Iodine or other commercially available substances marketed for this purpose are often applied with the hope that the taste will remind the tser and put an end to their habit. In almost every case, though, they are inneffective because the motivation is applied from the outside, that is, a parent wants their child to stop, but the child isn’t willing. Usually this kind of outwardly directed motivation has an opposite affect, with the child focusing more on the habit while it becomes symbolic for a power struggle of sorts, an expression of individuality, or separation, or even an attention-getting mechanism where the parental concerns represent to the child, on some level, love and care. Obviously, then, the parental efforts often lead to the opposite result, cementing the habit further.

In the case of the ATS, I have not known any situation where these substances work. The reasons for that, I’d guess, is that the pleasure derived from the habit is stronger than the desire to go through the discomfort of quitting. Additionally, many ATS do so while asleep and the brain turns off the sensation of taste during the sleep phase. So even if the ATS managed to fall asleep without their thumb, he/she will awaken with thumb in mouth.

3) Hypnosis

With hypnosis, a lot depends both on one’s motivation and psychodynamics as well as the ability of the hypnotist and the rapport you have with him or her. In the majority of cases, with adults, it is, at best, temporarily effective unless the ATS is highly motivated to stop. Hypnosis is not magic. You can’t be hypnotised into doing, or not doing, anything you don’t agree with.

4) A Psychologist

Every ATS that I’ve corresponded with who attempted to use a psychologist have said that the psychologist didn’t think of their tsing as a problem. Yes, the therapist may have agreed that it's bothersome for their client but, from a psychological standpoint, tsing is not the problem. It may be a symptom of other problems, for instance, you may be stressed from your job, your relationship or a lifetime of turmoil and suck your thumb in order to help you cope, but tsing is not the source of pain. Maybe you fret about what others may think but, truly, from a psychological point of view, that is their problem, not yours. I have not known of anyone who went to a psychologist for their tsing where other issues, closer to the “real” problem didn’t become the prime focus.

5) Dental Appliance.

This is a device which, when fitted to your palate, behind your top, maxillary, teeth, prevents a suction from forming. The idea behind it is to remove the pleasurable sensation associated with tsing.

Some of the main objections to this device, for the adult, is that it is worn 24 hours a day, at the office, while talking to your friends and acquaintances, etc. If you’ve been secretive about others knowing your predilections, this can create some awkward situations. Of course, if you are wearing it as a first step in orthodontic work, the explanation for why it’s there would come easier, “I’m being fitted for braces and this is a temporary fitting.” No lies there.

Many wearers find this device uncomfortable as well as generally annoying. Again, a lot depends on your motivation. With children there are some who argue that this device has been the cause of more psychological trauma than it was worth. There's a friend of this site, a librarian/researcher in England, who sends me numerous references to the harm done by this device. And, ironically, it’s not absolutely fool proof. I've had much correspondence with people who've stated that they’ve been able to suck their thumb regardless, or that, because they don’t “suck” their thumb (merely placing it in their mouth and/or using the technique of ‘tongue quivering’, more than actual sucking), it is essentially superfluous.

6) Tying Hands to the Bed

This technique is notoriously unsuccessful since one can still indulge. You’d have to tie all of your limbs to the bed to prevent yourself from tsing but then you may have a hell of a time trying to get a night’s sleep, not to mention figuring how to get out of the bed in the morning! It also doesn’t do much for your urges while out of bed. Forget this one.

7) Miscellaneous Methods (or...just having a little fun here)

a. Spiritual Healing

That old expression comes to mind, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, if you find yourself often seeking the advice of a spiritual healer, you may end up broke, so maybe there’s something to be said for this technique. But, all kidding aside (yea...sure), there really isn’t anything to “heal” if you suck your thumb. You’re not sick or bad or any Thing just because you still suck your thumb, but at least going to a SH, an appropriate acronym I may add, will at least put you in touch with your other worldly self and, who knows, maybe he/she’s not a tser and you’ll luck out! But, if not, (don’t fret, tsing has been known to leave the person ‘zoned out’ a bit and isn’t that somewhat spiritual,? So it’s never a total loss), it’s a great source of entertainment. Just think of all the megabucks you’ve been spending on the movies, dinners out and vacations. At least spiritual healing is much cheaper, and besides, you don’t really need all those other sources of fun anyway, right?

(Note, the above paragraph was written totally for the sake of humor and didn’t mean to offend anyone, so be cool, ok, or ts, at least it’ll feel better.)

b. Distract Yourself

Some believe that life is one big distraction from the awareness of death. So you gotta figure that if distraction can work with big things like existential angst (the worry about death, basically), than why can’t it work with tsing? The problem with this is that you’d have to carry an awful lot of things on you wherever you go. Think about it. For instance, let’s say you’re sitting there at your office, doing your job, when all of a sudden you get The Urge. “No problem”, you think, “I brought my Distraction Kit along!”

So, you take it out, spreading its contents on the desk in front of you. Let’s see, two bells, the trumpet, the wrist exercisers, that electronic kit you’ve always wanted to play with; . . . notice that all of these distractions involve both hands, very clever, ay? And, more, the good thing about most distractions is that they’re easy to do; no one has to teach you how to do it as, ever since grade school, you’re probably already well practiced in the art of distraction. The only problem I anticipate is trying to explain yourself to your fellow workers, or worse, the boss. I’d suggest that you think about starting your own business, so at least you’d eliminate one more person to explain yourself to. But, for most of us, explaining what you’re doing is a real problem and then there’s the carrying around of all this paraphernalia. Gee, I guess this won’t work after all...shucks!

c. Find Religion

The great thing about the religious experience is that, if you believe, you can always be forgiven. So, even if it doesn’t work to stop your tsing, at least no one will blame you for trying. And it’s not that hard to do, depending on how serious you want to go with it. It’s a matter of psyching yourself up. And, if you’re a hardcore atheist, you may be interested to know that you don’t even have to believe in God; some forms of Zen don’t require it. If you succeed, you’ll find a number of possible substitutes for your thumb, a side benefit. So the next time someone comes to your door hawking one of those little religious booklets, take the booklet, read it, listen to what they have to say, and tell them what the problem is, “I suck my thumb, can you help me?.” You know they’ll say they can, they always say that religion works. See what the power of believing does? There’s something to be said for a positive attitude. And, if it doesn’t work, like I mentioned already, at least you’ll be forgiven.

(Note, the above paragraph was written totally for the sake of humor and didn’t mean to offend anyone, really, so be cool, ok, or ts, at least it’ll feel better.)

d. Move to New York City or England

If all else fails, you ought to think about moving to one of these place. You won’t have to stop sucking your thumb because, in New York City, they’ve seen it all and in England, they try not to notice anything, it’s polite you know. As soon as you pop your thumb in these places, if they notice anything different at all, you’ll probably be welcomed as one of the bunch! Sometimes the best “cure” is no cure at all!

The Real Question (or, getting serious again)

The real question is why stop at all? Unless there are some real and serious health concerns, stopping just because someone else thinks you should stop or because you think something is wrong with you merely because you ts are reasons you ought to give more thought to. Why should someone else’s values result in you feeling bad about a harmless, gentle habit that you enjoy and need and has some real benefits to it?

Since many capable, mature and successful adults ts, your tsing doesn’t automatically mean that something is wrong with you. At the worst, it is merely a symptom of something that may be troubling you, but the tsing itself is not that something. What may be the underlying problem may mask itself in such a way that your mind thinks that tsing is the problem, but that’s just your unconscious mind using denial and avoidance in order to hide the real issues. Remember, sucking your thumb into adulthood does not at all mean anything other than it’s your habit and/or way of dealing with stress or sleep, nothing more.

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I hate myself because I suck my thumb. How can I deal with these feelings?

Self loathing comes in many forms with origins as varied as the number of people experiencing it. Usually, though, its beginnings lie in how loved we felt in our formative years as a child, especially in terms of the relationship fostered between parent and offspring. For instance, if you felt rejected by your parents many times for who your were or what you did, you may have built up a thought pattern in your mind that undermined your feelings of worth. You may have subconsciously or consciously concluded that you aren’t worthy of unqualified love. Of course it’s a lot more complicated and generally requires a pattern extended over time, but you get the idea. Hating oneself is a process that is usually built up over a lifetime and once the idea gains a foothold it may grow in such a manner that each subsequent perceived rejection or failure becomes more reinforcing and important than it otherwise should be. It’s a pattern of feeling that takes route and becomes habitual.

In other words, if a significant person, like a parent, communicated some nasty notions to you about yourself, while you were still a child, i.e., “you’re impossible to deal with,” or “you’re a stupid baby,” or “I hate when you suck your thumb, you’re pathetic,” you may, over the years, internalize these sentences in such a way that you act and feel as though they are true. They become your own self defining thoughts and feelings. And, if they did that, they may have inadvertantly ingrained the habit as it may become, in additon to a comforting mechanism, an expression of self or a means to obtain attention, another way of confirming that the attention giver cares, even if negatively.

You realize these thought patterns are a problem when they prevent you from enjoying your life as you sense you should or could. The way to deal with them, in a nutshell (you should excuse the expression), requires that you first identify them. This is called self insight and is very hard to achieve since, by internalizing these negative self definitions, they are entrenched and have become, often, highly subconscious. Most of all they are usually irrational and, since you’d probably prefer to think that you are a rational person, you may find it hard to accept that you operate, emotionally, on an illogical basis. Once identified you’ll find yourself denying that they exist and this pattern of denial is very difficult to overcome. One way to overpower denial, and there are many techniques (psychologists take years to learn them), is to “reality test” these beliefs.

For instance, let’s say you believe that, by tsing, you’re immature or “bad” in some way. Perhaps this feeling is based on things your parents said. Let’s look at some imaginative dialogue to illustrate the point, Q means questioner and A means answerer:

Q What’s the problem?

A I suck my thumb.

Q Why is that a problem?

A Because I think that I’m immature if I suck my thumb.

Q And what does that mean?

A If I’m immature, something is wrong with me.

Q What is wrong with you?

A If means that I can’t do the things I’m expected to do, I can’t handle things.

Q Like what?

A Like handle a relationship, or take on the responsibilities of an adult.

Q But you have had relationships and you do have a job, right?

A Yes, but, OK, it means that I’m not capable like I should be.

Q How so?

A I don’t know exactly. I just feel bad about myself because I suck my thumb.

Q What do you mean?

A I just feel like I’m bad in some way.

Q So, you feel that you’re a bad person if you suck your thumb?

A I guess.

This is the irrational sentence, “I am bad if I suck my thumb” (just one of hundreds of possible alternative sentences). Remember, getting to this part isn’t usually so easy, but I’m illustrating a point for clarity. Notice, too, that some of the notions can not be backed up with behavioral evidence, like the use of the word "immature" in the above example. Let's continue:

Q What does that mean, to be a bad person? Do you mean that, when you suck your thumb, you are bad to others?

A No, bad to myself, and bad that I’m a disappointment to others.

Q How, specifically?

A I don’t know, it’s just a feeling.

The other irrational sentence, “I’m a disappointment.”

In this imaginative dialogue Ms. A came to realize that she thinks she’s “bad” or a “disappointment” because she tses. The next step would be to contine to reality test this idea, as Q has already started to do. It’s important to define the terms one uses in these internalized sentences, as in this example where the word “bad” is used. If this word was used by your parents when you were a child as in, “It’s bad to suck your thumb,” or, “you promised me that you’d stop sucking your thumb and it’s bad to break a promise”, it may have been interpreted by you, at that age, to mean that you’re bad. Remember, this is just an example to illustrate a process; there are almost an infinite number of ways in which this process specifically may occur in one’s life.

So now, since a lot is learned from the parents, especially on the emotional level, you reinforce this idea every time you suck your thumb. It doesn’t stop you from indulging, since your tsing deals with other important needs, but the idea may take hold and be reinforced often. You may hide your habit because you don’t want others to think that you’re “bad”. In fact, even if you subconsciously question this notion, you may find it hard to challenge it since doing so may be interpreted, on some gut level, as a form of internalized parental confrontation and you’ve given the parent in you lots of power. So you compromise, hiding your habit and feeling miserable about yourself for needing it. In fact, the habit itself may have been more firmly entrenched as a subconscious need to separate from parental authority, to become your Self in a sense.

So, how do you test these ideas? You do so by examining their assumptions, to see if they can be supported by reality, by facts, or even logically.

Q So, if you would suck your thumb now, you’ll think that I would think of you as bad in some way?

A Yes.

Q But I wouldn’t, really.

A I don’t believe you.

Q Interesting. So, if everyone thought as I do, you’d still believe that they think you’re bad in some way, right?

A Yes.

Oh, the power of the internalized parent, otherwise known as the super-ego! This power results in a situation that even reality has a difficult time disproving. Part of the idea behind this site is to show the ATS that the internal conflict arising out of their habit is based on life-long irrational beliefs that work to undermine their sense of self. The self definitions were dependent on many ideas. 1) that they thought they were some freak, alone in their habit. But, as we’ve seen, that isn’t true. 2) they thought that they were immature, dependent on a childlike way to deal with reality. That, too, isn’t true, as the many examples at this site has also shown. And on and on. The point is that, by the time you’ve reached adulthood, the origin of these concerns no longer matter since, by now, one’s own internalized perceptions operate to perpetuate and reinforce these beliefs.. By reality testing them, the ATS will identify their irrational basis and, by acting to test their truth, the ATS will gain, hopefully, enough experiences to create the fertile conditions necessary to overcome his/her internalized irrational thoughts.

But, what do you do with all this self knowledge? Once you see that reality doesn’t conform to preconceived notions, it’s time to DO something about it.

I wouldn’t suggest going out in public, sucking your thumb/finger whenever the urge takes hold. There are just too many people who believe inaccurrate things about it and it takes too much energy to convince them otherwise or to deal with other reactions they may have. There are those that do ts in public, and you may have read about them at this site.(To read about the most famous of them, check out Olivia, Elly or Cydniey.) We have seen that they’ve survived quite well. But, for most of us, this would be too burdensome an idea and we are, at heart, conformists with some important things we value, like our job, that may be at risk by pioneering in this way. I would suggest though, with people who you trust and love, who know you well as a person, that, with them, you can indulge as you’d like to because doing so isn’t harming them or anyone else and they are far more likely to accept you, tsing and all. Doing so isn’t definitionally “bad”. And, in reality, they will accept you, not as some stereotype, but for who the real you is. If you still can’t do that, then I’d urge that you realize at least that there’s nothing inherently “bad” about your behavior. If you think there is, then start questioning your assumptions as in the example above.

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Will sucking my thumb in front of my children be harmful? Should I be concerned about my thumb sucking affecting my children?

Many have written with this concern. Often, their families know of their habit and, when the ATS’es own children are tsers, or if a young relative indulges, the ATS is blamed for it. Another concern involves questions of what other people may say to the ATSer’s child if their parent’s tsing becomes known, the negative affects that this may have on the child.

Based on correspondence, it is my observation that one’s own children accept it very well, especially if it has been known since their birth. The show “Extra” depicted Tony, a schoolteacher whose two boys totally accepted his tsing and didn’t think more of it than, “It’s just his habit.” As Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.” The anticipatory anxiety surrounding this situation is often far worse than the reality, since tsing doesn’t define who you are; who you are as a person defines yourself.

The producer of Extra told me that she was inspired to do the show when a fellow woman worker at the station admitted that her mom was a ATS and that this caused stress, especially when she’d have friends over to her home when she was a child. A lot has to do with attitude. For instance, if your child’s friends question it and your child acts indifferent about the matter, chances are that the friends will just forget about it. If you child acts embarrassed or defensive, perhaps a feeling generated by how it was handled by a spouse, it may cause problems for that child. I would guess, though, that a father may have more problems than a mother since, if the fact that he tses’s is relayed to the other parents; they may have irrational fears about child molestation. Tony, after the show aired, had problems in his school because some parents withdrew their children from his class. I can only guess that molestation fears were in full bloom in that situation.

So what are we to make of all this? Sucking your thumb in front of your kids is OK. The relationship you established, based on love and mutual respect, will sustain a lot of things, especially inconsequential things like sucking your thumb. If your kids would have to put up with flack they can’t deal with from others, or if you’re worried that their friend’s parents wouldn’t be OK with it, then don’t do it in front of those friends. It’s one thing to take responsibility for one’s own actions, another thing to ask someone else to do so, especially if they’re too young to have the experience and skills necessary to handle it.

Here's an e-mail from a mother who sucks her thumb and has children who do so too:

At first I worried a lot that [my children] would be teased for doing it but I guess the world is changing and kids are not as cruel as everyone says.

I blamed myself for them doing it because my mom and ex husband say they do it cuz they watched me do it. I wonder if I am being a good parent for not trying to stop them or make them quiet (but how if I cant quit?) and I truly believe that all my parents did to get me to quit hurt more then it helped. I can not bring myself to do it to them (ok so I am a push over but I feel that my kids need this comfort and security, with the split of their father and I).

I am so proud of them. I must be doing something right because they have so much confidence than I did at any of their ages(11 , 7 , 5) and I feel that, because they know I suck my thumb and see I that I to do the same thing for the same reasons, it has a lot to do with the fact they talk to me as much as they do.

Yes they mentioned it to their friends all the time. At first I was a little nervous I think I was more worried for my child. Now I just laugh about it. This started when a friend of one of my childern saw them doing it. Of course there is a little chuckle in the voice as the friend says "you still suck your thumb?" and my kid replied, "so what is the big deal? It is what i do sometimes, " The friend says why and they say "cuz i like to." Then the friend comes to me and says "do you know your kid still sucks his/her thumb?" At that point, either my child has already told them that I do too or I just say, "I do too and I am sure you have things that you do that you hide cuz you are afraid that some one would not understand right. Well, you do not have to worry with matthew , katelynn , or andrew. Being their friend, well, you should not treat them any different than before you knew as they are still the same person you like to hang out with " There has been 5 of their friends that went right back to watching tv or to what ever it was and put their thumb in their mouth too. I have never had a proublem with any of the parents about me sucking my thumb around their kids but what I do hear from the parents is that they like their kids playing at my house and that they know they are safe and how nice it is to know that I look out for their kids like they were my own

(To see more from this family, check out Betty's Family.)

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Is it true that some people may find my thumb sucking attractive?

As in everything human, there’s a wide range of preferences. Based on correspondence, I’d say that most guys find that if a woman tsed, that fact alone would enhance her attractiveness, much like the way she appears physically may. Women are more blasé about it, finding attraction in a man based more on personality than appearance. I’ve had gay couples write to me who expressed the idea that they found their mate sexy when they indulged, though their tsing partner was more often than not perplexed by the idea. The fact is, though, to the typical ATS, their habit has little to do with being attractive or feeling that it has anything at all to do with sex.

There have been many couples who have written to me saying that they’ve engaged in sexual behavior where tsing was part of the design. They found it enhanced their pleasure when the ATS would either suck their thumb or visa versa, thumb sharing. I’d guess that, if that kind of behavior continued over a long enough period, that the act of tsing would build some interesting associations in that regard. But it’s understandable that this kind of sexual play could enhance feelings of trust and closeness, involving as it does, the mouth and fingers, both considered erogenous to a degree, depending on the individual.

For more information from some of those writing with their thoughts on the subject, click here.

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Are there other sites like this?

There are, now, some other sites on the Web that focus on adult thumb sucking as well as teen thumb sucking. There are sites that deal with it in terms of e-mails and photos submitted by us common folk and these sites are linked. There are also occasional, small, mentionings of this phenomona here and there, all of which are catalogued at our site, but none going into any depth. There are short stories galore both in publications and on the Net where an adult is exhibited sucking their thumb, but there is no in depth accounting of the dynamics involved. It is surprising that such a largely populated behavior hasn’t been studied on both the Net, except here, and in the professional publications. That’s why I’ve called ATS the world’s largest populated secret. I hope to one day obtain a grant that allows me to study this behavior in a scientific fashion so that we can all have at our fingertips, so to speak, accurate and complete information concerning the numbers of adults who indulge, as well as any pertinant demographical information.

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Will showing this site to others help them to understand me better?

I’ve had lots of e-mails describing how, after showing this site to someone who isn’t a ATS, the non-tser’s attitude and understanding of ATS changed on the side of tolerance, some even going so far as to say that they now looked at the whole matter in a totally different way. It’s a very good feeling to see that this change of perception has helped couples to feel closer to each other in a positive way. The fact that this site has garnered media attention should also help to undermine innaccurate notions about the ATS, both in terms of its prevalance as well as the negative associations previously held by the general public.

Most of all, this site, as history’s first coming together area for the world’s ATS, has helped the ATS to see themselves as a whole person, without the encumbrances of feeling alone and misunderstood.

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Does sucking my thumb lead to increased amounts of colds and infections?

The jury is out on this. There is no known study answering this question. The answer would seem to be obvious, that it does, but tsers are known to make sure to keep the favored digit clean and ready, oftentimes substituting the other hand in anticipation of working with something that may contain infectious substances. Additionally, there are many ATS that purposefully clean their hands prior to indulging. Finally, one may build a theoretical case for the idea that if tsing causes increased colds, then these infections would have more likely occurred when still a child, since resistance to these infections is lower at a younger age. If true, then this increase in colds should create a larger variety of antibodies by the time the tser reached adulthood, thereby resulting in less colds by that time. No one knows for sure and I’ve had reports both ways from ATSers.

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Do males have a harder time being accepted than females?

Based on the survey there is a significantly higher percentage of female ATS than male, two to one in the last survey statistics I’ve analyzed. It could be that this habit is more likely to prolong among females for a host of reasons. Cultural values, though changing, view the female as more dependent and passive. These values tend to tolerate what may be perceived as dependent types of behavior. These same values foster male machismo, the strong male able to take stress with ease and react to challenge confidently, aggressively, the opposite of passive response. These expected behaviors and representations oppose the image of a male tsing. These cultural standards may act as some leviathan, setting up a sort of cultural consciousness or super-ego that creates pressures to cease or hide tsing, since tsing is stereotypically perceived as incompatible with the expected norm. The percentage differences combined with the cultural explanation may act to create a condition as if there may be more externally felt pressure to cease at an earlier age for males without ever testing the reality of cultural values that make themselves known early in one’s life. It is interesting to note that, so far, all of the public tsers that have written to me have been female. There is one male who claims to ts in public, but he hasn't furnished any proof of this yet. When he does, I'll write about how he deals with it.

On a more individual basis, that is, within the living space of the individual ATS, though, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the sexes, in terms of the reaction of friends, co-workers, and family. This is also interesting, a cultural standard with enough exceptions, yet still surviving somehow. Of course one may also conclude that women have more powerful genetically based needs to ts, but I believe the habit is fairly evenly distributed among the sexes at ages under, say, five so that explanation may need more fine tuning.

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