Skip to the main content.

3 min read

Is Foot Tapping a Sign of Anxiety?

Yes, tapping one's foot can be a sign of anxiety.

Anxiety manifests differently for different people. Some may appear totally fine on the surface, even if internally they are spiraling. Others demonstrate very obvious external signs of anxiety, such as pulling their hair, crying, or being irritable.

Let's go over how and why anxiety can make people tap their feet ceaselessly, as well as other mental health concerns that may result in foot tapping.

Fidgeting Resources on This Page:

Why do people tap their feet?

How To Stop Constant Fidgeting

Why do people tap their feet?

Foot tapping, as well as related behaviors like biting your nails or pulling your hair, are known as fidgeting behaviors.

Fidgeting is a way for the body to release pent-up nervous or excited energy. There are many mental health reasons for fidgeting, so let's define some of them.

Anxiety

Ranging from more mild anxiety to full-blown panic disorders, anxiety disorders can be very debilitating. Part of the reason why is that anxiety can cause fidgeting behaviors.

Because anxiety disorders manifest as consistent nervousness or worry, the body tends to build tension and stress. Tapping your foot helps release this tension, giving your brain something to do other than spiral.

The problem is that fidgeting behaviors can often cause problems. Trichotillomania, for example, is the compulsive tendency to pull one's hair. Over time, this can lead to bald-patches and even permanent follicle damage - a very tangible and debilitating externality of anxiety.

Tapping your feet on the floor can also be mildly frustrating for roommates, partners, or anyone who lives or works in close proximity. Often, people who fidget don't even realize they're doing something observable to the people around them.

But anxiety is not the only reason for fidgeting.

General Nervousness

In a similar vein to the mechanism behind fidgeting as a result of anxiety, people who don't have anxiety disorders can also fidget due to situational nervousness or worry.

Maybe your boss called you into her office, or your wife is upset about something you said. While you wait for the "moment of judgment", you might find yourself pacing around the room or tapping your foot.

ADHD

People with ADHD often exhibit fidgeting behaviors, but for a different reason than those with anxiety or worry.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is characterized by:

  • Difficulty focusing on a given task
  • Focusing too much on a given task, despite other obligations
  • Impulse control problems

People with ADHD need two things to focus: stimulation, and interest.

If they are not interested in what they are doing or if the task at hand is tedious or boring, it can be very difficult for a person with ADHD to stay focused on the task at hand.

This is often where fidgeting comes in. Because the brain is understimulated, it seeks out other ways to expend its energy. When the task at hand is important - say, a class or work assignment - fidgeting is often the only way to find relief.

As mentioned above, fidgeting often frustrates others. A teacher, for example, may interpret a student's fidgeting as a sign that they aren't paying attention. This is, of course, the opposite of the truth: the student is actually doing everything they can to stay focused.

Restless Leg Syndrome

A neurological disorder, restless leg syndrome causes an irresistible urge to move one's leg. Typically worse in the evening, RLS can be very uncomfortable.

Treatments for restless leg syndrome include:

  • Therapy, if your RLS is caused by an underlying anxiety condition
  • Medications like pramipexole, which increase the amount of dopamine available for use in the brain,
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Sleep medications

If you think you may have restless leg syndrome, consult your primary care physician or a mental health professional.

Excitement/Impatience

Perhaps the most positive reason for excessive foot tapping or fidgeting, being excited about something can also create a surplus of restless energy.

When you're waiting for something really special to happen, like a long-time friend visiting, your brain is so hyped on happy juice (or, more scientifically, dopamine and serotonin) that it just can't contain itself; it has to let some of it out.

Like situational nervousness, this is a temporary and non-harmful reason for tapping one's foot.

How To Stop Constant Fidgeting

The best way to stop your fidgeting depends on the underlying cause.

If you tend to tap your foot out of situational nervousness or excitement, there are a number of strategies you can use to improve it, such as:

  • Meditation
  • Finding something to read
  • Completing chores

If you think you may have an anxiety disorder or other mental health concern that is causing your fidgeting, your first step should be to consult with a mental healthcare provider. These professionals are trained to determine the best course of treatment for your specific case.

For example, if generalized anxiety is causing your fidgeting, they may recommend talk therapy as a way to reduce anxiety at its source. They may also recommend medication like gabapentin or benzodiazepines to help curb more severe anxiety.

If ADHD is the cause of your foot tapping, doctors may prescribe drugs like Adderall and Ritalin to help with overall focus.

If your fidgeting is causing disruption or tension in your life, you should consider talking to a professional anxiety therapist.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

bored man

Why am I so bored with life? 5 Reasons You're Feeling Dissatisfied

Boredom may seem trivial, but it can be a powerful negative feeling. When it gets to the point where you start to wonder, "Why am I bored with life?"...

Read More
woman

What Does "Anxious Attachment" Mean?

Attachment styles are a type of bond that is created between mother and child during child development, which can affect relationships later in life....

Read More

Can therapy for dating help me find a partner? A Guide for Brooklyn

There are several potential reasons that a person may seek out dating therapy. You may be someone who has never had healthy relationships modeled for...

Read More