I have been working in the human services field since 1996, primarily working with people with developmental disabilities.
Do you find yourself dropping things for no apparent reason? If the objects you've been dropping are not heavy or difficult to handle, you're probably wondering why this keeps happening. Routinely losing hold of small objects like silverware, coffee mugs, or pencils is more common than you might realize.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to a tendency to drop things, and they range from relatively benign to somewhat serious. In rare cases, a tendency to lose grip on handheld objects can be a sign of a degenerative condition.
It won't help to assume the worst, though. It's better to consider all the possibilities and arm yourself with a wealth of information. The best way to do this is to consult a doctor who might be able to identify the underlying cause of your dropping issue and find out whether medical treatment is necessary.
Four Possible Reasons Why You Are Dropping Things
- Stress, Anxiety, and Fatigue
- Conditions and Disorders
- Pregnancy or Menopause
- Prescription Medicines
1. Stress, Anxiety, and Fatigue
As mentioned earlier, the cause of your butterfingers could be relatively benign. If this is the case, you may be able to deal with it effectively on your own. Be sure to check with a doctor before doing so in order to rule out any more serious causes.
Stress and Anxiety
When you are dealing with a significant amount of stress or anxiety, you can be very easily distracted by the issues on your mind. When you're worrying, you're not paying attention to what you're doing. This can make something as simple as holding onto a cup far more difficult.
Stress and anxiety can cause shakiness, which can make it difficult to hold onto things. Anxiety can also delay your physical responses to stimuli, so adjustments you make to your grip while holding onto something may prove ineffective.
Fatigue is another possible culprit and frequently occurs alongside stress. When you don't sleep enough, your body wants to rest and may find opportunities to do so without your conscious approval. If this happens while you're holding onto a pen or carrying a coffee to the table, your grip might relax, causing you to drop the item. Fatigue also makes you weaker, so even something as basic as holding onto a small object can become more difficult. It's a good idea to listen to your body. If it needs rest, eventually it's going to take it.
What Can You Do?
If you and your doctor determine that anxiety is the likely cause of your issue, you'll probably want to find a way to mitigate some of the stress you're feeling. The best way to do this, as far as I'm concerned, is to take time out of your routine to look at what it is you're having difficulty dealing with. Ignoring your stressors is a good way to keep them festering in your mind where they can continue to haunt you.
Ask yourself if the issue giving you anxiety is something that can be dealt with. If so, ask yourself if you can handle it. If it's something you can't do anything about, try to recognize that worrying about it is futile. Perhaps once you determine the stressor is out of your control, you'll realize that it's really not that big of a deal.
Whatever the case may be, you will likely have to direct your attention to the cause of your anxiety in order to figure it out. A philosopher named J. Krishnamurti once said "that which you understand, from that you are liberated."
2. Conditions and Disorders
Various conditions, especially degenerative ones that get worse over time, can weaken the hands and cause you to drop things.
MS and ALS
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's Disease) are probably the most prominent conditions that can cause this kind of thing to happen. ALS is a progressive disease that slowly weakens all of the muscles in the body. The early signs of both of these conditions can be subtle and may include dropping things due to the weakening of the muscles in your hands.
Both conditions are neurological ones that affect nerve signals to the brain and in turn impact motor skills. If your frequent dropping of objects concerns you and you suspect one of these conditions might be the cause, you should consult your doctor or neurologist.
Another possible medical cause is arthritis. Arthritis can affect the joints in your hands and make it difficult for you to hold things adequately. This condition can be painful, so consult your doctor if you suspect this might be the cause.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome, which involves the compression of nerves in the wrist due to repetitive movement, can cause numbness in the hand and cause you to drop things.
Fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by muscle pain throughout the body, can cause weakness in the wrists and hands which can, in turn, cause difficulty keeping hold of things.
- Having a stroke can result in a loss of motor skills. Dropping objects is relatively common among individuals recovering from a stroke.
- Peripheral neuropathy, a neurological condition caused by diabetes, often causes individuals to drop objects.
- Various forms of encephalopathy (brain disorders) have been known to result in difficulty holding onto things.
- Individuals with attention deficit disorder may drop things as a result of distraction.
- Ehlers Danlos syndrome is a condition that affects connective tissue and loosens joints. Those affected may become uncoordinated, bump into things, and drop objects.
- Compartment syndrome occurs when swelling (usually due to injury) prevents blood, oxygen, and nutrients from getting to certain areas in the arms and legs. The condition causes nerve damage, numbness, and pain. Individuals with compartment syndrome may not be able to control their grip well enough to hold certain objects.
There are many neurological, muscular, auto-immune, and brain disorders that can cause individuals to drop things often. Consult your doctor to learn more about these conditions and their treatments.
3. Pregnancy and Menopause
Pregnant women often report dropping things more than usual. When you are pregnant, the shift in your center of gravity can throw your balance off, loosen your joints and ligaments, and reduce your fluid retention. This may result in a weaker grip. Fatigue and stress are also common during pregnancy and may exacerbate the issue.
Many women who are going through Menopause also report dropping things more often than usual. It is important to consult an experienced health care professional to find out if there are underlying issues that might be affecting your ability to grip objects or stay focused.
Certain prescription drugs are known to cause patients to drop things. Common culprits include:
- Some psychiatric drugs
If you are taking these or other medicines, consult your physician to determine whether your tendency to drop objects may be a side effect.
What Should You Do?
Whether it's stress and fatigue, a medical condition, pregnancy, a prescription, or something else that is causing you to let items slip through your fingers, consulting your physician is the first step to addressing the issue. Visit your primary care doctor and share any information you think may be relevant to your dropping problem. Even if the cause is simple stress, your doctor will be able to recommend strategies to help you stay focused and mitigate your anxiety.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Dana M E on September 14, 2018:
I just recently (5wks ago) started to drop small, light things. I thought it was pure clumsiness. But here it is all these weeks later no, it simply can’t be anymore. Because now, I’m dropping more and more and more. Just had a cat scan done of my brain to r/o ms Thank Goodness I’m clear. Have an appt set up next week with a Neurologist. I hope to get answers.
John Landry267544920 on November 12, 2017:
I'M DROPPING MANY ITEMS- SUCH AS TELEPHONE, COFFEE MUG, SHEETS OF PAPER.
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on July 08, 2017:
Yes, I think it would be a good idea to visit a doctor. It's always the best option just to be sure.
Shirley Anne on July 08, 2017:
For a while now I have dropped things my hand just seems let go. I am regularly knocking things over. I just swip over them. Do it when I'm out. It is so embarrassing. Should I see my Doctor.
Iris on January 09, 2017:
I drop things a lot...it's embarrassing sometimes
LadySesshy on January 02, 2017:
People drop things a lot when the fingers get dry. Dried skin makes it hard to grasp things.
Gina Welds from Tampa, Florida on July 26, 2016:
I was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy about 5 years ago. Recently I have found that it has gotten worse and I've been dropping things a lot more frequently, or I am having to grip a lot more tightly because sometimes I just can't feel what I am holding.
Lumicite on May 11, 2016:
This was a very thorough examination of why we drop things. I have been having this problem for the last two years and could think of no reasonable explanation. Your article gave me quite a number of possible causes to seriously look int.
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on March 21, 2016:
Very interesting, Jan. Glad you stopped by, glad you liked this piece.
Jan T Urquhart Baillie from Australia on March 21, 2016:
This was also a longtime problem for me. While my doctor daughter was at Uni she came home with a pamphlet about menopause and 'clumsiness ' and thought it might be helpful. Many years later I Was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Interesting and informative piece. Thanks for writing it.
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on October 04, 2015:
Hi, Bronwyn. Glad you stopped by! Sounds like the condition you have is difficult to deal with. Maybe they will soon get to the bottom of it.
Bronwyn Joy Ellio on October 04, 2015:
Hi NateB11. Thanks for an informative Hub.
I was diagnosed with a rare (1 in 40 thousand people) neurological condition known as Type Neurofibromatosis five years ago. In February this year, they began to doubt the diagnosis, but cannot say what it may be.
What ever it is, dropping things is a regular part of my life now. My hand just lets go without any warning.
Tests have ruled carpal tunnel and nerve damage in my arms.
The mystery continues!
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on April 28, 2015:
That could be a reason for dropping things, Kevin.
The Examiner-1 on April 28, 2015:
Perhaps something(s) subconciously bothering you NateB11.
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on April 28, 2015:
Thanks for sharing your experience indanila. Glad you stopped by.
Inda Blackwell from Hampton Roads on April 28, 2015:
I have a movement disorder called Dystonia, and this was one of the things that led to my diagnosis. I was dropping things so much I went to the doctor etc. Nice hub!
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on April 08, 2015:
Yes, stress is definitely a factor oftentimes when it comes to dropping things a lot.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on April 07, 2015:
i drop things when I am tired, in a hurry and feeling down. I guess stres in the factor
Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on March 30, 2015:
I do that kind of thing periodically too, Ron. Fortunately, it's nothing serious, just a little slip of attention like you said.
Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on March 29, 2015:
I drop things every once in a while. With me, it's mostly inattention - I absent-mindedly reach for something while not looking and don't get a good grasp. Or while holding something I hit my hand unexpectedly on some object and let go. I'm thankful that so far it hasn't been a real problem.