13 Small Things Anxiety Makes You Do

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You might have a few quirks. Most people do.

Some of your quirky behaviors may have started innocently when you were younger to give you comfort from your worries. They probably worked for you, providing you with some degree of relief or control.

Over time, they may have become nervous habits fueled by a compulsion to feel better. You could have even developed anxiety.

The classic signs of anxiety are restlessness, fatigue, muscle tension, and irritability. Sometimes, worry can present as sweating, upset stomach, headaches, or jumpiness. Other times, nervousness can manifest in small behaviors — so small that you may not even notice until someone points them out to you.

In a TikTok video from psychologist Dr. Julie Smith, she highlights this point that has resonated with thousands of viewers who recognize all of the little things anxiety makes them do.



RELATED: 7 Things People Don't Realize You Do Because You Have Social Anxiety

These idiosyncrasies might show up when you're extra stressed, or they may help you cope on a more regular basis.

Here are 13 quirky things that anxiety makes you do (that you might not even realize):

1. You twirl your hair.

Twirling your hair can feel great, especially after a fresh wash. You might flick your hair, flip it, put it into coils, or brush it lightly against your cheek. Sometimes this crops up when you’re overwhelmed or when your mind is working overtime.

If you can't stop playing with your hair or you've graduated to pulling your hair so hard you’re removing it, you might have trichotillomania, a more serious condition. Otherwise, pull your hair back or wear a hat to resist the urge.

2. You use the bathroom a lot.

Anxiety can cause you to make frequent trips to the bathroom. You might find yourself going several times while you're out, or before a nerve-wracking event such as a demanding presentation or interview.

Uneasiness could also prompt you to make a washroom trip the very last thing you do before your head hits the pillow at night.

3. You proofread your emails several times.

Apprehensive about how an email or text will land? This might prompt you to read it repeatedly until you’ve retyped it a few times, exhausted every possible way to send your message, and grammar-checking it, just to be sure.

Perfectionism and approval could be at the heart of this anxious habit.

4. You repeat a phrase when you say goodbye.

To prevent something bad from happening, anxiety might cause you to say a phrase when you hang up the phone or hug a loved one goodbye. Insisting on saying, "I love you" or "good luck" are soothing behaviors that will assure you that nothing has gone unsaid, and everything will be alright.

5. You constantly check and recheck.

If you're worried that you've left the stove on or you've forgotten to lock the front door, you might check it, again and again, to be sure. This behavior might stem from a past incident or an underlying fear.

6. You replay a conversation over and over.

Reliving exchanges with a family member, friend, or colleague is another little way that anxiety rears its head. You can't go back; you have to have confidence that you said what you needed to and move forward. Letting go can be hard when you have anxiety.

7. You arrive extra early.

If you fret about being late, your anxiety might cause you to build in twice the contingency that you might need. This can stem from an urge to control the uncontrollable like traffic and weather, apprehension about embarrassing yourself noisily walking into a quiet auditorium, or letting someone else down.

Alternatively, you might simply have a Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

RELATED: How To Instantly Tell If Your Anxious Feelings Are Actually An Anxiety Disorder

8. You bite your nails.

Nail biting, otherwise known as pathological grooming, is a coping mechanism to deal with uneasiness, although it can also be inherited. It might seem like a little thing at first, but it can lead to health issues if you don't find a way to keep your hands busy and your mind calm.

9. You chew on your lip.

While this might appear endearing or even flirtatious, biting or chewing your lip is another body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) brought to you by anxiety, and provides temporary relief from difficult emotions.

10. You pull the covers over your head.

Do you wake up in the morning, press snooze, and wonder why you just can't get out of bed? Staying in bed underneath a cozy duvet is the ultimate form of anxious avoidance.

11. You scroll on social media.

Another thing anxiety makes you do is endless scrolling through social media. This can take the form of doom-scrolling negative information, which ultimately can make your anxiety worse, or seek a dopamine hit from a funny video or uplifting post.

12. You often reject social invitations.

Declining opportunities to meet up or go out is something anxiety can make you do. This is especially true if commuting, meeting new people, or having small talk stresses you out.

The rub is the fewer invitations you get, the more anxious you might be when you do get them, feeding into any worries about being excluded.

13. You always sit near the exit.

Anxiety might compel you to sit at the end of the row in a movie theater, at the edge of a restaurant booth, or at the back of a conference room. After all, you might need to leave to go to the bathroom, or just leave.

The good news is that with greater awareness of your little anxious habits, you can begin to break them.

RELATED: The Scary Truth About What Happens To Your Body When You're Stressed

Lisa Petsinis is a certified life coach who works with individuals to build lasting life skills like confidence and resilience, and create more joy and meaning.