Why do people fidget?

Why do People Fidget?
When you aren’t paying attention, you may find that your body begins to fidget – you could start moving your hands unnecessarily, or perhaps your feet.

It’s a way of releasing pent up energy that has built up over time when you become restless. For example, if you’re in a boardroom meeting for ages, you might start clicking your pen.

Fidgeting is your body’s attempts to become alert or to distract yourself from something that you should be doing – procrastination is common among office workers.

There are two reasons why someone would fidget. To improve focus or to deal with a lack of focus – this usually depends on the situation you’re in. You may also fidget if you are feeling stressed as an attempt to reduce it.


How do I know if I’m Fidgeting?
If you find that your body, or more specifically your hands and feet move often while you’re supposed to be paying attention, then you may be prone to fidgeting. In addition to clicking pens or tapping pencils, shifting around, blinking, unfolding and refolding your arms and legs are also associated with it.


Why do I Fidget?
If you’re just an occasional fidgeter then this can be put down to losing concentration, however, if it affects you on a more regular basis, then it could be a sign of an attention disorder such as ADHD.


Fidgeting and ADHD
If you have ADHD then you will have one of the following three types: hyperactive ADHD, inattentive ADHD or both.

If you have the hyperactive ADHD then you will often find yourself talking too much and being generally interruptive, fidgeting all the time and struggling to keep quiet when you are supposed to. This is usually behaviour associated with children, but it can also extend into adulthood.

It’s not easy to diagnose ADHD in adults as symptoms could be indicative of many other disorders. However, if you find that you suffer with any of the following, then you may want to pursue the matter further as it could be due to ADHD:

  • Mood swings and impatient behaviour could be ADHD or bipolar
  • Difficulties staying focussed and completing jobs


If you have ADHD you will already have it when you are born. There’s no definitive cause of it but head injuries, alcohol and tobacco exposure, along with general genetics could be responsible for it.


Fidgeting and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Some people find that they fidget mostly in the evening – this could be due to restless leg syndrome (RLS). If you have RLS then you will constantly want to move your legs, especially when you are trying to relax. This can be particularly annoying when you are trying to sleep. It’s said that anywhere between 5 and 10% of Americans have RLS.

No one knows for sure how RLS arises, but it tends to occur most after being inactive for extended periods – such as when you are travelling.



Treating Fidgeting
Treating fidgeting is not easy but there are a few things that you can do. Firstly, determine whether your fidgeting is mild or something more severe. If it’s mild you may be able to eliminate with a toy like a fidget spinner, however, if more severe then you may need a drug such as methylphenidate, a psychostimulant. Consult your doctor to find out if you have an issue of fidgeting.

Avoiding medication is preferred if possible as it can affect your appetite and sleeping patterns as well as bring on mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. If that happens then you may be prescribed further drugs to combat the side effects.


The Future of Fidgeting
While it would be nice to eradicate fidgeting, it’s not going to be too problematic providing you only have it mildly. The main trouble with fidgeting is that it can significantly hinder your productivity if you find that you are easily distracted.

With the new fidget toys on the market – such as the cubes and spinners – you can also take the fight to fidgeting in a way that has never been possible before. But if you’re still worried, just discuss things with your doctor and decide on an appropriate course of action.

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