#Question: What Does Excessive Blinking Mean in Body Language?
Talk Nerdy To Me’s: @StaffWriter
Excessive blinking can be a sign of several things.
Stress, medical conditions, and tiredness are the leading causes.
Blinking is controlled by muscles that open and close the eyelid to spread tears across the eye. This lubricates the eye and washes away dirt and germs. The average person blinks about 15 times a minute, which translates into 26,000 blinks per day.
Excessive Blinking Can Mean Stress
We blink when under stress, especially severe stress. The reason we excessively blink is that stress causes the eyes to produce more tears. The extra tears are needed to lubricate the eyes while the body is using its energy elsewhere, such as in a fight or flight response.
Blocking Out Distractions
When we’re stressed, our mind tends to wander toward negative thoughts and feelings.
We may be aware of our blinks but not what’s happening around us.
While this can be confusing for others, it blocks out external distractions that serve only to stress us further.
People with chronic anxiety experience something called emotional exhaustion.
This leads them to act opposite their natural tendencies when dealing with stressors in life. For example, an anxious person usually moves away from things they fear or people they don’t like. When they’re emotionally exhausted, however, they may move closer to these types of stressors.
This is why anxiety sufferers tend to avoid social situations when severely stressed for a long period of time.
Emotional exhaustion can be the hidden reason behind chronic blinking.
Excessive Blinking Can Mean Fatigue
Excessive blinking can mean we’re simply tired. Most of us blink less when we’re more awake and alert.
Eye drops can help combat eye fatigue, but a better strategy is to get more rest.
Excessive Blinking Can Mean a Medical Condition
When you blink repeatedly without control, it’s sometimes called pathological or psychogenic non-epileptic seizures — seizures without any electrical activity in your brain. In this instance what happens is that there is nothing wrong with your eyes themselves but rather an issue with how they are being used.
Excessive blinking can also be a sign of:
- Eyesight problems, such as cataracts or dry eyes
- Anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Head injuries and brain tumors
- Side effects from drugs such as antihistamines, antidepressants, alcohol, or caffeine
How To Decode Excessive Eye Blinking
Aside from knowing the many possible reasons, what cues can you look for to determine why someone is blinking excessively?
You can look for general blinking frequency, blinking with making eye contact, blinking before speaking, or after speaking.
General Blinking Frequency
When we’re relaxed and comfortable with one another, we blink naturally and at a normal rate.
This should be about once every three seconds or so.
If you notice that the person across from you is blinking much more than this, there’s likely something else going on.
Excessive Blinking When Making Eye Contact
If someone makes prolonged eye contact then starts blinking rapidly, they might feel uncomfortable in the situation.
They might also look away or break eye contact.
Blinking Before Speaking
People who are nervous may blink repeatedly just ahead of — or even during — a conversation.
This is because making eye contact and being in a social situation can be very stressful for them.
Excessive Blinking After Speaking
It’s not uncommon for people who speak a lot or have an active imagination to blink repeatedly after they’re finished talking.
If the person speaking is someone you’re close with, this might indicate that they’re processing their thoughts after having said what was on their mind.
Why It Matters If You Understand What Excessive Eye Blinking Means
Understanding why someone is blinking excessively may help you better understand their emotions and state of mind at any particular moment.
For example, if a person is blinking rapidly before you ask them to complete a task, they might be feeling stressed. If a friend or family member is blinking this way, it’s best to ask them what’s going on and if they’re okay.
If their speech pattern changes while they’re speaking — they blink more, have less eye contact, and so on — it’s likely they’re feeling anxious about the topic.
When someone is blinking excessively as they tell you something, it means they need a break from talking or to take a moment to process their thoughts. Don’t push them if their speech pattern changes during a conversation.
Blinking is just one part of body language, but it can reveal what the other person is feeling or experiencing at that moment.
By combining the clues from someone’s body language with your own observations, you can gain a better understanding of what they’re communicating to you. This not only helps you connect with them, but also helps you respond to them in a compassionate and understanding way.
How To Talk to Someone About What Their Excessive Eye Blinking Means
It’s not always comfortable to talk directly with someone about their body language and feelings. You might feel unsure of the best way to approach them, or you may be afraid they’ll take your concern as a slight against them.
Here’s how to bring it up in conversation.
It can be difficult for some people who blink rapidly, so if you want to ask them about it directly just say something like “I’ve noticed that sometimes when we talk together you seem uncomfortable and start blinking rapidly. Is there anything I can do to support you?”
You might not think many people would notice this behavior, but once someone is aware of their own body language, they often become more conscious of what other people see and experience around them.
Ask them if there’s something going on that you don’t know.
If you ask them for their perspective on the situation, it might help them feel more comfortable sharing with you what they’re really thinking and feeling.
It can also be helpful to reassure them that it’s okay to take a break or step away from the conversation if they need to do so. People who blink rapidly often suffer silently because they don’t want to inconvenience others by taking time out of their day to calm down.
Giving them permission to self-soothe can make it easier for them to share.