Behavioral Symptoms
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Why Anxiety Can Lead to Extreme Clumsiness

Daniel Sher, MA, Clin Psychology
Why Anxiety Can Lead to Extreme Clumsiness

It's a scene often witnessed in movies. There's a nervous guy trying to impress a pretty girl. He builds up the courage to walk over to her, and suddenly everything goes wrong. He trips, or he knocks things over, or he accidentally drops all of his books/papers. Invariably, he becomes extremely clumsy, and the subsequent embarrassment causes him to run away from his prospective date.

Extreme clumsiness isn't necessarily an anxiety symptom, but it can occur as a result of anxiety, and for some people that clumsiness can actually reinforce their anxieties and make them afraid to be confident enough to live a normal life.

How the Body Becomes Clumsy

There's nothing inherently wrong with being "clumsy." Dropping things, tripping over objects, bumping into furniture - these things happen. Don't worry too much about your clumsiness - worry about your anxiety, because if you could live free of anxiety, your quality of life would probably be greatly improved in several ways. 

But for those that live with anxiety, clumsiness really does occur. There are many anxiety symptoms that make clumsiness more likely. These include:

It's also very important to remember that some degree of clumsiness is completely normal. Just because you drop things or knock over things doesn't mean anything is wrong with you, or that anxiety is causing it. People are clumsy all the time.

But when you have anxiety, you may notice this clumsiness and worry about it more. In fact, you may imagine that you’re actually far clumsier than you really are; and that other people see this in you as well. You might get embarrassed, ashamed, or worried, as though this clumsiness reflects a personal fault or deficiency. 

That's unfortunately something that anxiety does - it makes people amplify even the smallest mistake or flaw into an issue that supposedly speaks to a deficiency in their character, even if other people probably wouldn’t see it that way. 

Are There Strategies to Overcome Extreme Clumsiness?

Awareness is of course the most important weapon against clumsiness, but sometimes that's easier said than done. The best thing to do is make sure that you're using strategies that make it harder for you to focus on your anxieties, so that being clumsy is less likely. For example:

These are some basic strategies that can improve your clumsiness. Exercise may also have added benefits for coordination, in the event that you are a slightly naturally uncoordinated person. Ultimately, the way that you manage this is up to you - but remember that reducing your anxiety is likely to improve your quality of life and may have the added benefit of making you less clumsy.

Article Resources
  1. Jayakody, Kaushadh, Shalmini Gunadasa, and Christian Hosker. Exercise for anxiety disorders: systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine 48.3 (2014): 187-196.            
  2. Valenza, Marie Carmen, et al. Effectiveness of controlled breathing techniques on anxiety and depression in hospitalized patients with COPD: a randomized clinical trial. Respiratory Care 59.2 (2014): 209-215.            
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Anxiety and Appetite Problems
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