There’s no research on fidget spinners, but some psychiatrists are optimistic that the toy can help kids with autism avoid more disruptive behaviors. It may also reduce nervous habits like nail biting.
Like stress balls or worry stones, it’s really how you choose to use a fidget spinner that matters.
Taking much-needed mental breaks
Kristine Bungay, an NYC exec, has reportedly spent thousands of dollars on deluxe, custom fidget spinners. A few times a day, Bungay devotes 3-5 minutes spinning and breathing. She says she’s been stressing less and sleeping better as a result.
Based on current evidence, it’s likely the breathing, not the spinning that’s making an impact. Without research, we can’t be sure. If nothing else, spinning helps Bungay stick to her routine.
Still, Psychiatrist Erik Vanderlip, MD, Zoom’s Mental Health Team Lead is concerned that fans of the toy who are struggling to manage stress, anxiety, or lack of focus are really just spinning their wheels.
The downside of fidget spinners
Here’s the thing: If we were to toss our fidget spinners on the pile of other half-hearted attempts we’ve made to boost our mental health — from downloading unscientific apps to diffusing essential oils — they’d end up twirling atop a mountain of wasted time, money, and energy.
“People can devote enormous resources to pursuing easy fixes like fidget spinners that deliver little more than a placebo effect,” says Dr. Vanderlip. “For some, they can make a mildly positive difference. For others, they get in the way of seeking evidence-based therapies.”
Buying a fidget spinner to manage what could be genuine anxiety, depression, OCD, or ADD/ADHD is like buying a goldfish to manage loneliness or a Thigh Master to manage obesity.
These small efforts are comforting because they make us feel like we’re doing something. But ultimately, they don’t accomplish much.
Feeling better for real
Another likely reason gadgets like the fidget spinner are popular is that seeing a mental health professional seems like such a big step.
We’ve seen countless people on TV and in movies talking and talking and talking to a therapist with little to show for it. While years of talk therapy might be right for some people, the vast majority of us would benefit from a simple mental health check-in.
“There are a lot of opinions and options out there when it comes to managing thoughts, mood, and emotions,” says Dr. Vanderlip. “At Zoom, our role is to help people to make the best decisions for themselves. We don’t have a vested interest in particular therapies or medications — we just want you feeling better as soon as possible.”
So, if you did buy a fidget spinner, what thoughts or behaviors were you hoping to change? Have you been surprised by how often you reach for it because you’re feeling anxious or disconnected?
If spinning isn’t helping, consider scheduling a visit for Mental Health*.
*Note: You must be 18 or older to see a mental health specialist at ZOOM+Care.