When anxiety strikes, some people turn to special accessories on their hands to feel better.
They’re known as anxiety rings or fidget rings — pieces of finger jewelry that contain beads, rotating centers or other moving parts that the wearer can discreetly play with.
Zoë Ayres, a scientist and mental health advocate who lives in Birmingham, England, bought one last year after seeing others on social media mention the trend and thought it was worth a try. Her thin silver band has pearls that move around the ring or can be kept neatly at the front of it when not in use.
“I use it all the time, from when watching TV to in work meetings,” Ayres, 31, told TODAY. “It’s not a cure for anxiety. It does, however, help to bring a moment of mindfulness if I feel stressed or anxious in a particular situation.”
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Can anxiety rings make a difference for some of them? TODAY asked Debra Kissen, clinical director of Light On Anxiety, a treatment center in Chicago. She specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and related disorders.
What are anxiety rings?
Kissen preferred to call them fidget rings, describing them as portable fidgets that are less conspicuous than fidget spinners and less intrusive than, say, pen clicking.
“So it’s more of an acceptable behavior. You’re wearing a ring that looks pretty and it looks like part of your outfit, but it has some kind of motion to it, something that you can do in moments to ground yourself or to remind yourself of a mantra,” Kissen said.
“It’s jewelry that also serves some kind of release of energy function.”
How could anxiety rings help?
Humans like to move, so sitting still is not what the body always wants to do even though we’ve come to expect that of each other, Kissen said.
People who are more on the fidgety side or prefer motion over stillness could still get a little bit of that motion feeling from a ring with moving parts when they’re in a meeting or doing something else that requires sitting still for social acceptance, she noted.
Besides offering a discreet way to release extra energy, a fidget ring could also serve as a distraction for people with body-focused repetitive behaviors, such as skin picking, hair pulling or nail biting. The finger jewelry is quickly accessible and if you’re fidgeting with a ring in that second, you can’t pick at your hand at the same time.
“It’s riding out the urge,” Kissen noted. “It gives you a little bit of time to try to control your next move.”
A fidget ring can certainly be helpful for that purpose, she said. But Kissen has never seen a research study proving the rings are beneficial in other ways.
Bottom line: Should you get an anxiety ring?
“I would say it’s a low-cost experiment, so you don’t have much to lose,” Kissen said.
But an anxiety ring would be more helpful when it’s part of an overall wellness plan that could involve therapy or a self-help workbook, she added.
“If you’re feeling stressed enough or anxious enough that you want to buy a ring, chances are there might be another thing that you can do that gives you a more holistic approach to helping you experience less stress,” she said.