The Guardian Positions Lip Balm Addiction as OCD

A major article chronicling our struggle with sobriety was published today. Are you a lip balm addict? by Morwenna Ferrier includes some interesting statistics, including that the balm industry is now expected to hit £1 billion this year.  Unfortunately, the article describes the affliction as not really an addiction but merely a compulsion.

While lip balm isn’t addictive in the actual, traditional sense because it doesn’t contain ingredients which generally cause physiological dependency – a spokesperson from mental health charity Mind said it’s not something they’ve come across – compulsive application is “a thing” and tantamount to an OCD. As Joel Rose, director of OCD Action, explains “the minute you define it it becomes a thing, the compulsion becomes real”. And if you like to apply lip balm 70 times a day, then you may be displaying compulsive tendencies.

Rose might be complaining that those of us in recovery from lip balm addiction are “playing fast and loose with language”, but when I was using Cherry Chapstick dozens of times a day it wasn’t because I felt a psychological desire to sooth. It was because my lips burned and I felt pain that could only be addressed using lip balm.

Still it’s nice that the Guardian article keenly plays it down the middle and acknowledges that regardless of the reason there’s pain out there for people who habitually use lip balm.

Are you one of those people who applies it multiple times a day? Yes. Do your lips still feel chapped? Yes. And yet do you continue to apply it despite evidence suggesting it’s not helping? Yes. Then you might have a problem.


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6 Responses to “The Guardian Positions Lip Balm Addiction as OCD”
  1. Chris says:

    I have been using Boots (the chemist) naturals lip balm (various flavours) since in my mid 20s I’m now 57. It started when my lips started to burn after (I believe) drinking from a glass which hadn’t had it’s detergent rinsed off completely. Like so many other ladies after trying numerous brands I finally found the that one worked and have used this happily for all these years.

    Couple of years back Boots decided to discontinue this wonderful silky smooth non sticky balm and I went into a panic! Not only does it feel great on my lips and take away the stinging/burning sensation it was also great value. At the time I bought as many as I could (I work all over the UK as a staff trainer so had lots of different Boots to visit) but now I only have a couple of pots left and feel completely panic stricken. I’ve been trying others for months now but to no avail, I have even been in contact with Boots to see if they had any stock lying around but they don’t.

    I have the recipe which includes paraffin oil which I believe we are being warned off using but I think this might well be the magic ingredient for me and would happily still use it if I could get my recipe made up for me - is there anyone who can help. I stand up in front of people all day long talking and it’s an incredible source of embarrassment for me when the balm is wearing off and my lips start sticking together especially the corners. I find that when I’m talking to people in everyday conversation they start to lick their lips (I don’t believe they know they are doing it) as if by looking at my mouth it makes them feel their lips are dry. This makes me feel even more uncomfortable and embarrassed.

    When I mentioned this to my doctor a few back he said I was imagining it! I wish I could video every conversation I have because I know for sure I’m not. Can anyone help me in either making up the lip balm for me or pointing me in the direction of someone who could? Many thanks Chris

  2. Cheryl simone says:

    Please, everyone, I have a transition cure. Buy an aloe plant and a cucumber. Each day dat break off a 2″ piece of aloe and cut 2 slices of cucumber. Carry them around in a small ziplock bag. Every couple hours apply aloe gel. In between, when you want to lick your lips, apply cucumber. Never lick your lips.

    One small help is the aloe is bitter so you will want to lick your lips less.

    Once your lips dry out the first day, try not to smile, they will crack. The crack may take longer to heal than the dryness and chipping.

    It took two weeks for my lips to be almost normal. Another week or two for the crack to heal. This method works!

  3. Faye says:

    I fully believe this is a compulsive behavior. Any behavior that does not involve a chemical addiction is compulsive. That doesn’t make it any less serious. What feels like chemical withdrawal if you stop using lip balm is actually anxiety and physical discomfort of not feeling the reassuring or soothing feeling of balm on your lips and of having chapped, dry or stinging lips that have probably gotten that way because our lips didn’t have a chance to heal themselves on their own. Its a horrible feeling, but its not chemical withdrawal. Many people with OCD feel the same way when confronted with dirt or disorder (specific to their condition) and not being able to compulsively “fix” it. It can be mental torture. But its not the same as a heroin addict going through withdrawal, who throws up, has the chills and can’t get out of bed.

    Believe me. I’ve used lip balm, pretty obsessively for many years now. Just yesterday, I found this site and knowing its an acknowledged issue, and that lots of other people struggle with it, gave me the courage to cut back. I am keeping my lip balm across the room and practicing going an hour or half an hour at a time without using it. Its going well. I feel a bit edgy, and my lips feel a bit uncomfortable, but I need to do this so that this compulsion stops controlling my life.


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