You may have some quirks. Most people do.
Some of your bizarre behaviors may have started innocently when you were younger to give you comfort from your worries. They have 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 may also have developed anxiety.
The classic signs of anxiety are restlessness, fatigue, muscle tension, and irritability. Sometimes, the worry can present as sweating, an upset stomach, a headache, or nervousness. Other times, nervousness can manifest itself in small behaviors so small that you may not even notice them until someone points them out to you.
In a TikTok video by psychologist Dr. Julie Smith, she makes this point that has resonated with thousands of viewers who acknowledge all the little things anxiety makes them do.
These idiosyncrasies might show up when you’re under a lot of stress or might help you cope more smoothly.
Here are 13 bizarre things anxiety makes you do (that you might not even realize):
1. You twist your hair.
Rolling your hair can feel great, especially after a fresh wash. You could toss your hair, twirl it, put it in coils, or brush it lightly against your cheek. Sometimes this emerges when you are overwhelmed or when your mind is working overtime.
If you can’t stop playing with your hair or have gotten to pulling your hair so hard that you pull it out, you may have trichotillomania, a more serious condition. Otherwise, push your hair back or put on a hat to resist the urge.
2. You use the bathroom a lot.
Anxiety can make you make frequent trips to the bathroom. You may find yourself going multiple times while out or before a nerve-wracking event like a challenging presentation or interview.
The discomfort might even prompt you to take a trip to the bathroom the last thing you do before your head hits the pillow in the night.
3. Re-read your emails several times.
Worried about how an email or text message will arrive? This might prompt you to read it over and over until you’ve rewritten it a couple of times, exhausted every possible way to get your message across, and checked it grammatically, just to be sure.
Perfectionism and approval may be at the heart of this anxious habit.
4. Repeat a phrase when you say goodbye.
To prevent something bad from happening, anxiety might prompt you to say a line when you hang up the phone or hug a loved one to say goodbye. Insisting on saying “I love you” or “good luck” are calming behaviors that will ensure that nothing has been kept quiet and that everything will be fine.
5. You check and recheck constantly.
If you’re worried that you left the stove on or forgot to lock the front door, you might want to check it, again and again, to be sure. This behavior could stem from a past incident or an underlying fear.
6. Repeat a conversation over and over again.
Reliving exchanges with a family member, friend, or colleague is another small way anxiety rears its head. You can’t go back; you need to trust that you said what you needed to and move on. Letting go can be difficult when you have anxiety.
7. You arrive very early.
If you worry about being late, your anxiety could be packing double the contingency you might need. This can come from an urge to control the uncontrollable such as traffic and the weather, an apprehension of embarrassing yourself by pacing a quiet auditorium, or letting someone else down.
Alternatively, you may simply have a fear of missing out (FOMO).
8. You bite your nails.
Nail biting, otherwise known as pathological grooming, is a coping mechanism for coping with discomfort, although it can also be inherited. This might seem like a small thing at first, but it can lead to health problems if you don’t find a way to keep your hands full and your mind calm.
9. You chew your lip.
While this may sound endearing or even flirtatious, lip biting or chewing is another body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) brought on by anxiety and provides temporary relief from difficult emotions.
10. You pull the covers over your head.
Do you wake up in the morning, hit snooze and wonder why you can’t get out of bed? Lying in bed under a comfortable duvet is the ultimate form of anxious avoidance.
11. Scroll on social.
Another thing anxiety makes you do is endlessly scroll through social media. This can take the form of fatally swiping negative information, which can ultimately make your anxiety worse, or seeking a dopamine hit from a funny video or uplifting post.
12. You often refuse social invitations.
Turning down opportunities to meet or date is something anxiety can make you do. This is especially true if commuting, meeting new people, or small talk stresses you out.
The problem is that the fewer invitations you get, the more anxious you might be when you receive them, fueling any worries about being left out.
13. You always sit near the exit.
Anxiety might force you to sit at the back of the line in a movie theater, at the edge of a restaurant counter, or at the back of a conference room. After all, you may have to go out to the bathroom or just walk away.
The good news is that with more awareness of your little anxious habits, you can start breaking them.
Lisa Petsinis is a certified life coach who works with people to build lasting life skills like confidence and resilience and create more joy and meaning.