Is Anti-Anxiety Jewellery Just Another Marketing Ploy?

Or can they actually be useful?

Photo by Anastasiya Lobanovskaya

It’s no secret that much of the population struggles with their mental health.

In a 2019 study by UCD School of Psychology and Jigsaw, that surveyed 8,290 Irish young adults aged 18-25, a staggering 58% were classified as outside the normal range for depression and anxiety. That means over half of young adults surveyed are extremely anxious and/or depressed. This may be why, there’s been a surge of interest in anxiety rings.

If you’re not familiar with them, this is a ring you wear on your finger like a normal piece of jewellery. They’re made of a variety of materials from stainless steel to plastic. Some include embedded stones, beads and crystals to help you find one to suit your particular style. Many people spin the rings or beads to calm themselves, a similar idea to a fidget spinner. Like shaking your leg, clicking a pen or snapping a rubber band the idea behind the ring is to redirect your focus from whatever is overwhelming you.

Many swear by them, saying the distractions reduces anxiety symptoms. While the rings are pretty to look at and are most definitely made with discretion in mind, are they of any true benefit? Or is it just another marketing ploy? Anxiety can manifest in many different ways but at the end of the day it’s essentially a heightened fight or flight response.

When your brain perceives a threat whether real or imagined it releases a surge of chemicals including the body’s primary stress hormone, cortisol. This surge and over-activity can result in impulses like leg shaking, pen clicking, nail biting, repetitive tapping and even more serious things like panic attacks. Psychologist Dr Patricia Barber explains that a certain amount of anxiety is a natural part of life, but of course, many people want to find ways to make it easier.

The truth is, there’s zero scientific evidence that anxiety rings work. But some experts still recommend them. Dr Patricia explains: “We would recommend things like fidget cubes, stress balls, sensory toys… an anxiety ring is the same principle. Many people who wear a ring anyway might notice that they tend to turn or spin the ring on their finger, so the concept is not new but I guess it’s being marketed that way.

“Like a fidget cube, the anxiety ring can be worn without any real attention being drawn to it so for many people it can be quite helpful and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that we’d recommend them to help with regulating or reducing anxiety. But I think it’s unfair to say that it’s going to fix or cure somebody’s anxiety. I’m not familiar with anybody where that’s been the case but maybe that’s why the research needs to be done.”

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Beth*, 23 has suffered from anxiety and panic attacks since she was 15. She first experienced one before her Junior Cert English exam when she passed out outside the exam hall. She explained how she tried everything from the non to control her anxiety. “In the two years leading up to my Leaving Cert I tried therapy and meds which worked in the long term but I needed a short-term solution. I was one of those people who clicked their pen and shook their legs, driving everyone in the room mad. I had a hair bobble around my wrist for a while but started picking my wrist when the anxiety got really bad.”

An anxiety ring brought her comfort when she was struggling. “Being able to calm myself down without having everybody looking at me is half the battle. Anxiety rings have made life easier for me, calming my panic before it has a chance to take over. It doesn’t matter tome whether they’ve a scientific background. It helps so I use it.”

There are a number of pros to using anxiety rings, the main one being they are a non-invasive management technique with a self-soothing effect. They also look nice – something that went against the 2010s fidget spinner fad.

The argument against anxiety rings is mainly the lack of scientific evidence. Many also argue that they don’t address underlying anxiety issues like therapy or medication might. Although, this fails to recognise the importance of short-term relief. Dr Patricia points out: “It’s an affordable option, so some people will probably feel like it’s worth a try, but then on the flip side of that, that’s maybe where all the people are trying to capitalise or there’s industries maybe taking advantage of that.”

Their rise is in part, due to (often hyperbolic) claims from social media posts, with some influencers and wellness companies launching their own brands of the rings. Speaking about social media and mental health, Dr Patricia points out: “I think social media is great for sharing information and improving awareness but people aren’t always aware of the source of the information that they take in.

“From a practical perspective, TikToks have a time limit, so 90 seconds is not enough time to explain what anxiety is or give anybody a good technique or strategy to use, so the information is often really simplified. People might wonder why it’s not working for them, but they only work aspart of a package or a toolkit so it’s not like one thing will fix it for people.”

Patricia adds that above all, we need to remember that these things can help, but as part of a bigger support plan.“I think it’s really important to say that I would recommend them as one of many things for anxiety, or within a toolkit of other things. Anxiety is never going to be just fixed through one thing, if it was straightforward we’d already have an answer for it. So often I’d provide it as part of a toolkit and as one of many other things that you can use to help reduce your anxiety.”

So while anxiety rings maybe seen as a gimmick by some, if they’re a helpful part of your kit there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be used. But when it comes to struggling with your mental health, there’s no such thing as a quick fix, and jewellery and social media advice is no replacement for professional support.