There isn’t anyone in this world who does not engage in some sort of ‘habit’…and often on a daily basis. Some people walk fast, while others twist their hair, for example. While most of these are actually benign behaviors, you should know that there are some habits that actually could be a sign that you suffer from anxiety.
Below are ten of the most common behaviors that people often erroneously refer to as ‘habits, without realizing that they may be attempting to compensate for feeling anxious:
1. Smoking – So many people smoke now…although many are learning that it can cause great harm to their health. There are many smoking cessation programs available which one can access. Note that smoking is often a telltale sign of anxiety.
2. Nail Biting – Thousands of people bite their nails every day. This ordinarily does not do much harm to people, except that it may lead to infection around the nail. Pay attention to the fact that you may be engaging in ‘nail biting’ because you feel nervous and stressed.
3. Hair Pulling – This is more common than people think. Some people pull hair out from various regions of the body (eyelashes, eyebrows, scalp, etc…) when they feel anxious about something. Often this is done unconsciously. If done regularly and in excess, it can lead to hair-loss, and may be a sign of a more serious disorder known as ‘trichotillomania’ (a close relative of a disorder known as OCD-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Just note that this could indicate that you have anxiety.
4. Leg Bouncing – This can’t do any harm to you…except to drive other people nuts watching you bounce your leg! However, it could be a sign to you that you need to relax more and are suffering from anxiety.
5. Foot Tapping – This can’t cause any problems, other than to annoy others who are watching you tap your feet! Although…your feet might get tired! Bear in mind that ‘foot tapping’ may be more than just a habit…it may indicate that you are stressed out.
6. Overeating – Most of us love to eat! But if done in excess, it could cause significant weight gain and lead to a variety of health problems. Comfort foods, such as brownies, cookies, fast food, and other high-sugar/high-fat snacks can cause obesity. Keep in mind that your ‘habit’ of overeating may be a clear sign of anxiety.
7. Undereating – This could create a problem in that you may not get adequate nutrition and you could lose significant amounts of weight, which is referred to as ‘anorexia’ in the medical world. It is essential to get the proper vitamins and minerals in order to stay healthy. Please note that undereating could be a sign that you have anxiety.
8. Oversleeping – This is known in the medical world as ‘hypersomnia’. It can’t do any harm to you, but if you are oversleeping you may be depressed. Depression is a close relative of anxiety, so be aware that you may have ‘hypersomnia’ because you suffer from anxiety.
9. Undersleeping – This is known in the medical world as ‘insomnia’ and can effect what’s known as cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is effected when sleep is inadequate. Balanced cortisol levels are highly essential to having proper sleep, and thus keeping anxiety at a minimum. If you have ‘insomnia’, then this may be a clear indicator that you have anxiety.
10. Skin Picking – This ‘habit’ can cause harm to you, in that it may create scarring or infection to the area that is being picked. Note that sometimes people who engage in this ‘habit’ are doing it to relieve stress or anxiety.
There are four easy steps to help you to better understand your ‘habit’ and its cause:
Step 1. Pay attention to your own behavior, and notice your ‘habits.’
Step 2. Ask others what habits they see you engaging in, of which you may be unaware.
Step 3. Document in a journal what these habits are, and when you engage in them. (e.g. ‘I seem to pace just before a big exam in school.’)
Step 4. Over time, you can establish a pattern of when you engage in a particular habit, and thus pinpoint the cause.