What is an Oral Fixation and What are the Types?

What is an Oral Fixation and What are the Types?

Generally, a fixation is an obsessive drive that may or may not be acted upon and involves an object, concept, or person. In the early stages of psychosexual development, fixation is a persistent focus of the pleasure-seeking energies of the id. In the psychosexual stage, oral, anal, and phallic fixations are caused by unresolved issues. This leaves the individual focused on this stage and unable to move on to the next.

Patients with oral fixations may have trouble drinking, smoking, eating, or biting their nails.

Examples of Fixations

The three fixations described above can manifest in different ways in different individuals.

What is an Oral Fixation

Between birth and around 18 months of age, the oral (feeding) needs of the child are either met, overstimulated, or unmet. When a child has issues during the weaning process, a doctor may suggest they might develop an oral fixation.

Additionally, the doctor may suggest that nail-biting, smoking, gum-chewing, and excessive drinking are signs of an oral fixation. In this case, the individual did not resolve the primary conflicts during the earliest stage of psychosexual development, the oral stage.

Anal Fixations

The second stage of psychosexual development is known as the anal stage, because it focuses primarily on controlling bowel movements. Fixations at this point in development can lead to what the doctor called anal-retentive and anal-expulsive personalities.

  • Anal-retentive individuals: They may have been subjected to overly strict and harsh potty training as children and may become overly obsessed with orderliness and tidiness as adults.
  • Anal-expulsive individuals: Anal-expulsive individuals may have experienced very lax potty training, resulting in a messy and disorganized adult life.

Both types of fixations result from not effectively resolving the critical conflict that occurs during this stage of development.

Phallic Fixations

Phalangeal development is primarily focused on identifying with same-sex parents. It was suggested by the doctor that adult personalities with excessive vainness, exhibitionism, and sexual aggression could be caused by fixations at this point.

At this stage, boys may develop what a doctor referred to as an Oedipus complex. There is an analogous issue known as an Electra complex among girls. These complexes may persist and continue to affect behavior into adulthood if not resolved.

Treatments for Fixation

So how exactly are fixations resolved? According to psychoanalytic theory, transference plays a crucial role in treating such fixations. By transferring an old fixation to a new one, a person can consciously deal with a problem.


A key goal of psychoanalytic therapy is to release fixations through the process of transference. Therapists may discuss with clients patterns of reactions and attitudes that they observe their clients unconsciously projecting onto them. This allows them to help their clients bring their unconscious feelings from their past into conscious awareness.

It is important to remember that the most effective therapeutic outcomes are determined by the client/therapist relationship, rather than the theories or methods the therapist uses. When you decide to see a therapist, make sure you feel comfortable around them and trust them. Other therapeutic methods to consider:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may be used to address the thoughts, emotions, and behavior patterns that the client would like to shift.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) may be helpful for individuals who have experienced trauma previously.
  • Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP) can be a great option for those who prefer to work outside rather than in an office.
  • Trauma-centered therapeutic methods: These include cognitive behavioral therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.

The majority of therapists tend to use an eclectic approach when selecting their treatment framework.


Depending on the complexity of the issue you would like to solve, you can try various techniques on your own. These include:

  • Mindfulness: This method helps you connect with your body, develop a deeper understanding of your thinking process, and reduce stress.
  • Exercise: Exercising regularly may help reduce overall stress and be used as a way to replace habits you’d like to shift, such as nail-biting or smoking.
  • Relaxation techniques: Various relaxation methods, including progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, and breathing exercises, may help ease stress, ease tension, and refocus your energy inward.
  • Journaling: Getting into the habit of journaling may allow you to reflect on your specific fixation and better understand how your fixation impacts your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
  • Affirmations: Saying positive affirmations to yourself or writing them down may help you refocus your energy.

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