Can a Pop It Help With Anxiety?

Anxiety is an increasingly common issue that affects millions of people worldwide. While therapy and medication are often recommended to treat anxiety, some people are looking for alternative or additional ways to manage their symptoms. One trending item that has recently gained popularity as an anxiety relief tool is the “pop it” – a silicone toy that makes a popping sound when squeezed and inverted. But can popping one of these toys actually help reduce anxiety? Let’s take a closer look.

What is a Pop It?

A pop it is a round, flexible silicone toy, usually about the size of your palm. The most classic version has bubble-like protrusions on one side that can be pushed inside-out repeatedly to make a satisfying “pop” sound. They come in endless colors and patterns, and have evolved beyond just the bubble style to include variations like simple circles, hearts, and even fidget spinners. Pop its are marketed as sensory toys and stress relievers. The bubbly texture and popping sound provide sensory stimulation while the repetitive motion of pushing the bubbles can act as a focus tool for the hands and mind.

How Might Pop Its Ease Anxiety?

Pop its have a few key features that lend themselves to potentially helping with anxiety:

  • Tactile/sensory stimulation. The push and pop motion engages the sense of touch and provides tangible sensory input. Fidgeting with a textured toy can redirect anxious energy and stimulate the senses in a calming way.
  • Noise. The popping sound creates a consistent audio input that can be soothing or distracting from anxious thoughts.
  • Portability. Pop its are small, inexpensive fidget toys that can be taken anywhere and used discreetly. Having a portable object to fidget with can provide relief in anxiety-inducing situations.
  • Repetition. Pushing the bubbles in and out involves repetitive motion which some find calming. The ritual can help refocus the mind.
  • Novelty factor. Pop its are currently trendy and novelty items can provide momentary enjoyment and distraction from worry. The popularity factor can make them feel like an accepted tool.

Evidence on Pop Its for Anxiety

There is not yet scientific research specifically on pop its for anxiety relief. However, some studies support the use of similar sensory toys and fidget tools:

  • A 2019 study found that fidget spinners could reduce anxiety and improve mood and focus among those with ADHD. Pop its may provide similar sensory benefits.
  • A small 2018 study revealed tactile stimulation toys helped significantly reduce anxiety levels for pediatric dental patients. The toys provided distraction and sensory input.
  • One study showed that youth with anxiety disorders preferred fidget toys to other coping strategies and reported the toys were moderately effective for symptomatic relief.
  • Sensory approaches are commonly recommended by occupational therapists to help children with sensory issues related to anxiety, autism, and ADHD. Pop its share similarities with many sensory toys used in therapeutic settings.
  • Research reviews indicate sensory-based interventions show promise for reducing anxiety but more targeted research is still needed.

While preliminary studies on related tools are promising, direct research on pop its is lacking. Anecdotal reports from pop it users also offer mixed reviews on anxiety relief potential.

Pros and Cons of Pop Its for Anxiety

Potential benefits of using a pop it for anxiety may include:

  • Portable and discreet
  • Provides sensory stimulation that may have a calming effect
  • Popping sound can be distracting/soothing
  • Simple repetitive motion is calming for some
  • Easy and inexpensive to obtain
  • Trendy novelty can make them feel fun and engaging

Some downsides or considerations include:

  • Lack of scientific evidence specifically supporting their use for anxiety
  • Sensory stimulation could worsen anxiety for some individuals
  • Effects may be short-lived or toy could become distracting to others
  • Might be used compulsively or become a “crutch”
  • Limited mental health benefits beyond temporary relief
  • Not a replacement for professional anxiety treatment

Current research offers limited but optimistic evidence that sensory-based tools like pop its could hold some promise for easing anxiety. The combination of sensory input and repetitive, focused motion appears to be relaxing and distracting for many users. However, more research is still needed to directly substantiate the use of pop its for anxiety relief. While they may provide minor temporary relief for some, they should not replace other anxiety treatments. As with any self-help tool, effects can vary by individual. Overall, pop its are reasonably safe and affordable, so they may be worthwhile exploring as an additional stress management method. But managing clinical anxiety will likely require a more comprehensive approach.