Friday the 13th – Are Superstitions a Crutch or a Help?

superstitions, mental health, OCD, anxietyMaybe you don’t jump over cracks in the sidewalk anymore to avoid breaking your mother’s back, but do you “knock on wood” when you anticipate something positive?

Athletes from middle school to the pros will repeat the exact warm-up ritual or wear the same socks until a successful run comes to an end. The majority of couples avoid the 13th for a wedding date because the number 13 is believed to symbolize “bad luck.” In fact, most airlines don’t use the number 13 for rows or gates.

Superstitions can be harmless and even fun – catching the bride’s bouquet predicts a future engagement or finding a four-leaf clover signals future good luck.

superstitious, mirrors, mental health, OCD, anxiety “Superstitious behavior occurs when people believe strongly in something that on some level or another, they know cannot be fully true,” said Olivia Massena, MA, LCPC, a manager with Memorial Behavioral Health. “Sometimes there is a sliver of truth to the superstition. Breaking a mirror might bring the misfortune of cutting yourself on broken glass, but it probably doesn’t foreshadow seven years of bad luck.”

Different cultures subscribe to different types of superstitions, which have been passed down from generation to generation. This is probably because people use superstitions to feel like they have some control over their lives. On the positive side, superstitions can sometimes relieve anxiety or even improve productivity as you follow something you believe will result in a positive outcome.

But sometimes following superstitions can lead to costly or unhealthy habits that defy reason. How do you know if your superstitious nature is creating issues?

“People should be aware if their superstitions become more of a fixation rather than a passing thing,” Massena said. “Sometimes people with obsessive compulsive disorder have trouble moving past superstitious actions or thought patterns. Superstitions can also add unneeded stress to those already struggling with generalized anxiety.”

Bottom line? Superstitions that greatly influence your interest and ability to engage in life tasks and activities – or to avoid them – might be a symptom of an underlying mental health condition.

If your superstitions lead to increased anxiety, overwhelming fears or even depression, consider seeking help.

Need to talk? 

Memorial Behavioral Health provides telehealth and phone appointments with their patients. In addition, MBH has established a free and confidential emotional support hotline, available at 217-588-5509 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., to provide support to individuals who are experiencing anxiety or stress, even if they are not MBH patients.