Is swaying back and forth a symptom of mental illness?

In this blog, we will answer the question, “Is swaying back and forth a symptom of mental illness?”, and also cover what is a mental illness, what is a balance disorder, symptoms of balance disorder, what causes problems with balance, other causes of swaying back and forth, and also answer some frequently asked questions. 

Is swaying back and forth a symptom of mental illness?

Yes, swaying back and forth can be a symptom of an underlying medical or mental health condition. Let us delve a little deeper into this subject in the further sections.

What is a mental illness?

Mental illness is a condition that is usually characterized by changes in thoughts, emotions, or behavior, or a mix of these, and is frequently connected with social, occupational, or family functioning issues. Nearly one-fifth (19%) of adults in the United States suffer from mental illness each year, with one in every 24 having a mental health issue.

There are numerous types of mental illness symptoms:

  • Positive symptoms are behaviors that are present in addition to the other behaviours in a person like hallucinations. 
  • Negative symptoms are an absence of actions that are present in a person like reduction in speech, reduction in psychomotor function. 
  • The way a person thinks is affected by disorganized symptoms.

Positive & Negative symptoms of mental illness

The most visible signals of mental illness are generally positive symptoms. Rocking back and forth is one of these indications, and it can indicate stress, anxiety, trauma, or an underlying mental health condition. We’ll look at the symptom of swaying back and forth in this blog.

Why is swaying back and forth a symptom of a serious issue?

Swaying back and forth is a type of repetitive behaviour that is often exhibited by children, adults, and even elderly people because it feels self-soothing and helps the person deal with their life events in their own way. 

People who have anxiety also often show this swaying back and forth behaviour. This is very commonly seen in adults who often sway back and forth during their free time or zoned out. 

It can be considered to be a serious issue when the swaying back and forth is a sudden behaviour one is indulging in recently and this is often accompanied by being oblivious to one’s surroundings, self-soothing by being lost in one’s own world. 

Swaying back and forth is actually a very primitive way of soothing as it is often done by mothers who rock their little ones to sleep and this rocking actually stimulates the vestibular senses and provides the person a sense of soothing and relaxation.  

What is a balance disorder?

A condition that causes you to feel unsteady or dizzy is known as a balance disorder. You may feel as if you are moving, spinning, or floating whether standing, sitting, or lying down. If you’re walking, you can feel as if you’re about to fall over.

Everyone experiences dizziness from time to time, yet the term “dizziness” can signify different things to different individuals. Dizziness can be a short feeling of faintness for one individual, or an acute sensation of spinning (vertigo) that lasts a long period for another.

In 2008, almost 15% of adults in the United States (33 million) had a balance or dizziness problem. Certain health conditions, drugs, or a malfunction in the inner ear or brain can all contribute to balance issues. A balance impairment can have a significant impact on daily activities as well as psychological and emotional distress.

Symptoms of a balance disorder

If you have a balance condition, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Vertigo or dizziness (a spinning sensation).
  • Falling or having the sensation of falling.
  • When you try to walk, you get dizzy.
  • Lightheadedness, faintness, or a floating sensation are all possible symptoms.
  • Vision is hazy.
  • Disorientation or confusion.

Nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, changes in heart rate and blood pressure, and fear, worry, or panic are all possible symptoms. Symptoms may appear and disappear over short periods of time or persist for a long time, and they can cause weariness and sadness.

What causes problems with balance?

Medication, an ear infection, a head injury, or anything else that affects the inner ear or brain might cause balance issues. When you get up too rapidly, low blood pressure might cause dizziness. 

Balance problems can be caused by problems with the skeletal or visual systems, such as arthritis or eye muscle imbalance. As you become older, your chances of developing balance issues rise.

Unfortunately, many balance issues appear out of nowhere and have no apparent reason.

Most movement disorders are caused by changes in a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine excess can induce stereotyped movements, whereas dopamine deficiency can cause Parkinsonian symptoms.

Other Conditions that can be exhibited by swaying back and forth symptom

  1. Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a neurological condition that affects about 1% of the population in the United States. 

Schizophrenia causes people to think, feel, and act in a chaotic manner. Interference in the brain’s usual signaling patterns rewires how ideas, senses, and emotions interact, giving the impression of whole other reality. 

Individuals may perceive fictitious stimuli, acquire delusions, and act in response to them. A schizophrenic may rock back and forth to achieve stasis when overpowered by these symptoms.

  1. Autism

People with autism spectrum disorder frequently rock. Autism can be diagnosed in a person who has a different developmental issue and exhibits continuous rocking. The predominance of rocking among autistic people is explained by three primary theories:

  • Hyposensitivity occurs when a person rocks back and forth or side to side to stimulate a nerve system that is normally inactive.
  • Hypersensitivity: To cope with sensory overload, the person engages in rocking.
  • Endorphins: The person regularly rocks to relieve tension.

Rocking as an autistic symptom could also be explained by the presence of other illnesses or personal variables. 

Rocking is one sort of repetitive movement that can be found in autism, but a diagnosis requires more than just abnormal movement. This, on the other hand, could be a telltale sign that something is amiss and should trigger a visit to the doctor.

Other Causes of Rocking

While rocking is frequently linked to mental illness, it can also reflect other abnormalities or environmental issues, such as:

  • Problems with vision or hearing, as well as other sensory impairments
  • Seizures or a brain infection are examples of brain illness.
  • Abuse, whether physical or sexual
  • Trauma
  • Chronic pain or even abnormalities of the spine


What is the appropriate treatment option for swaying back and forth?

Rocking and other stereotypic movements are influenced by biological, behavioral, and environmental variables. As a result, diagnosing an underlying disease must be done on an individual basis. 

Medication, customized therapy, counseling, and education are just a few of the treatment options for mental health disorders like schizophrenia and autism.

It can be overwhelming to be diagnosed with any condition and it is okay to seek support from your friends, family, and healthcare professional to guide you through the process. 

There are various facilities across the world that are working as care centers and helping people through their mental illnesses. 

These facilities provide a holistic approach to taking care of your well-being by providing a therapeutic environment for their patients and treating people with mental illnesses with compassion, empathy, and unconditional positive regard. 

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

The staff posted at these facilities are highly trained and professional in their skills. The residents are provided care for their small little needs as well as bigger needs. There is a proper schedule that is followed for the residents to help them include exercise, healthy diets, recreational tasks, and even the betterment of their life skills. 


We talked about swaying back and forth symptoms of a mental illness, defined what mental illness is, talked about positive and negative symptoms of mental illness, balance disorder, symptoms of balance disorder, and also talked about various other conditions that include a rocking or swaying symptoms. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is swaying back and forth a symptom of mental illness?

If I believe I have a balance condition, when should I get help?

If you answered “yes” to any of the following questions, consult your physician:

  • Do I have a shaky feeling?
  • Do I get the feeling that the room is whirling around me, even if it’s only for a few moments?
  • When I know I’m sitting or standing still, do I feel as if I’m moving?
  • Will I lose my footing and fall?
  • Do I feel as if I’m about to fall?
  • Do I feel dizzy or as if I’m about to pass out?
  • Do I have a problem with my vision?
  • Do I ever feel bewildered, as if I’ve lost track of time or place?

What does swaying back and forth mean?

Literally, to continue moving, swinging, bending, tilting, etc., slowly in one direction and then back in the opposite direction. The structure swayed back and forth, threatening to topple at any given minute.

What makes a senior citizen wobble back and forth?

Swayback is caused by a number of factors. Lordosis can strike anyone at any age. Achondroplasia, discitis, kyphosis, obesity, osteoporosis, and spondylolisthesis are among the disorders that might cause this.

Is it normal to rock your body?

What should a parent’s reaction or protective action be? Simply remember that head pounding and body shaking are common actions that some kids engage in to help them fall asleep. There isn’t much you can do, and most kids will outgrow this habit by the time they start school.

What does it mean to sway from side to side?

Continue moving gently in one way, swinging, bending, tilting, etc., and then back in the opposite direction. The building shook from side to side, threatening to fall down at any moment.

What exactly is body sway?

Body sway is described as a person’s little postural movements in order to maintain a balanced position, and it may be quantified over time by the total displacement of the center of mass relative to the base of support.


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