Why Do I Keep Dropping Things?

Updated on July 28, 2016
NateB11 profile image

I have been working in the Human Services field since 1996, primarily working with people with developmental disabilities.

It might be that you find yourself dropping things without, seemingly, any reason. The objects you are dropping might not even be heavy or in any way difficult to handle: You pull a fork out of the drawer and it mysteriously slips out of your hand, or you can't seem to just hold onto that coffee mug.

Well, the possibilities for why you keep dropping things runs the gamut from the relatively benign to indications of a serious, even degenerative, condition. Of course, it won't help to assume the worst. It's better to consider the possibilities, and so be armed with some knowledge, and proceed from there. It is best to consult a doctor to get down to what the underlying cause is for your dropping things, and to find out if medical treatment is necessary.

Stress, Anxiety and Fatigue

Like I said, the cause of the butterfingers could be relatively benign; meaning, at least partly, it could be within your control to deal with it effectively.

When you are dealing with a significant amount of stress, which is creating anxiety, you can be very distracted by it and the issues that are on your mind; this means it's likely you're not paying attention to what you're doing. Something as simple as holding onto a cup could be difficult. This means that you need to deal with the stress in some way. The best way, as far as I'm concerned, is to take time out and look at what it is you're having difficulty dealing with; just ignoring it will likely keep it there festering in your mind to continue to haunt you.

The fact is, you probably need to deal with the issue or it wouldn't keep pestering you. It is something that can and needs to be dealt with, so you can handle it, or it is something you can't do anything about so worrying about it is futile. Or, it's really not a big deal. Whatever is the case, you will have to put your attention onto it to figure it out. It is distracting you and your mind keeps going back to it. There is a statement made by a philosopher named J. Krishnamurti that goes: "That which you understand, from that you are liberated."

There are a few other reasons why stress contributes to being clumsy with your hands. One reason is that you are likely pretty shaky; your hands are shaking and not steady enough to hold onto things. Anxiety also causes delayed responses; any adjustments you might make to your grip to hold on to something are delayed too long because anxiety has taken over. Also, anxiety is a by-product of thinking too much. You can think about something so much that you can't even do it normally and naturally and sensibly.

Of course, you might be working too hard or not getting enough sleep. The body then wants to rest, not hold onto a pen or carry coffee to the table. If you are tired, you are also weaker, so it becomes more difficult to do anything physical, even something as basic as holding onto a small object. It's a good idea to listen to the body. If it needs rest, eventually it's going to have to take it if you won't give it.

Being stressed or tired can cause you to drop things.
Being stressed or tired can cause you to drop things.

Conditions and Disorders

Various conditions, especially degenerative ones that get worse over time, can weaken the hands and lead you to drop things. 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. Like MS, the early signs of the condition can be subtle; starting with something as basic as dropping things, because the muscles in the hands are getting weaker.

Both conditions are neurological ones that affect nerve signals to the brain and so affect motor skills. If your dropping things concerns you and you suspect one of these conditions might be the cause, you could consult a neurologist.

Arthritis which can affect the joints of the hand is a very painful and debilitating condition that could make it difficult for you to hold things adequately.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which involves the compression of nerves in the wrist due to overdone and repetitive movement, can cause numbness in the hand and cause you to drop things.

Fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by muscle pain generally throughout the body, can cause weakness in the wrist and hand which in turn can cause difficulty in keeping hold of things and therefore dropping them.

Cardiovascular problems, particularly having a stroke, can cause loss of motor skills and therefore might cause you to drop objects.

Other conditions that might cause you to drop things often:

  • Peripheral Neuropathy, a neurological condition caused by Diabetes: One of its main symptoms is, actually, dropping things.
  • Various forms of Encephalopathy (brain disorders) have been known to cause people to drop things.
  • Attention Deficit Disorder - due to giving attention to the wrong things or not to what is happening, this condition can cause a person to drop things.
  • Ehlers Danlos Syndrome - a condition that affects connective tissue, marked by loose joints. Those affected can become uncoordinated, bump into things and drop things.
  • Compartment Syndrome - occurs when swelling, usually due to injury, in compartments of legs or arms prevents blood and oxygen and nutrients from getting to the area; the condition causes nerve damage and numbness and pain. Sufferers might not be able to control their grips well enough to hold objects.

There are almost countless neurological, muscular, auto-immune and brain disorders, and conditions that cause extreme pain, that could cause you to drop things often. I've listed some of the major ones in this section.

Do you drop things a lot?

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Conditions that affect the hands, like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Arthritis, can cause you to drop things.
Conditions that affect the hands, like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Arthritis, can cause you to drop things.

Pregnancy and Menopause

Often during pregnancy, a woman might find herself dropping things. This is due to a shift in her center of gravity due to her belly being bigger which throws her balance off, loosening of joints and ligaments (and fluid retention) that make her grip weaker, and also she's tired and having difficulty focusing.

This, of course, is no cause for alarm, but is a natural occurrence during pregnancy.

While it's not listed as a symptom of Menopause, many women who are going through Menopause report dropping things often. It could be a by-product of other symptoms of Menopause, like anxiety and irritability, which can disrupt focus. Therefore, it is important to consult an experienced health care professional to find out if there are underlying causes that might be affecting your ability to grip objects or stay focused enough to keep hold of things.


Certain prescription drugs are actually known to cause patients to drop things. Some of these include:

  • Thalidomide
  • Thalomid
  • Dymelor
  • Acehexamide
  • Drabinese
  • Chlorprodamide
  • Some psychiatric drugs

Factors That Can Cause You To Keep Dropping Things

Stress and Fatigue
Neurological and Other Conditions
Being distracted by stress or being too weak and tired.
Many neurological conditions make the hand weak or unresponsive to usual signals. Other muscular or auto-immune disorders or conditions affecting nerves and joints can make it difficult to keep hold of objects.
Certain drugs cause hand weakness.
Pregnancy affects balance, the joints, energy and focus.
Medical conditions that cause weakness in the hands can make you drop things often.
Medical conditions that cause weakness in the hands can make you drop things often. | Source

So, it could be stress and fatigue, a medical condition, pregnancy or a prescription that is causing a person to let things slip through their fingers. It is important to be very aware of what is happening with you when you are dropping things and to consider seeing a doctor if it seems like it is possible that the cause is something serious.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        John Landry267544920 5 months ago


      • NateB11 profile image

        Nathan Bernardo 9 months ago from California, United States of America

        Yes, I think it would be a good idea to visit a doctor. It's always the best option just to be sure.

      • profile image

        Shirley Anne 9 months ago

        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.

      • profile image

        Iris 15 months ago

        I drop things a lot...it's embarrassing sometimes

      • profile image

        LadySesshy 15 months ago

        People drop things a lot when the fingers get dry. Dried skin makes it hard to grasp things.

      • Gina Welds-Hulse profile image

        Gina Welds Hulse 21 months ago from Rockledge, Florida

        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.

      • profile image

        Lumicite 23 months ago

        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.

      • NateB11 profile image

        Nathan Bernardo 2 years ago from California, United States of America

        Very interesting, Jan. Glad you stopped by, glad you liked this piece.

      • JanTUB profile image

        Jan T Urquhart Baillie 2 years ago from Australia

        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.

      • NateB11 profile image

        Nathan Bernardo 2 years ago from California, United States of America

        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.

      • profile image

        Bronwyn Joy Ellio 2 years ago

        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!

      • NateB11 profile image

        Nathan Bernardo 2 years ago from California, United States of America

        That could be a reason for dropping things, Kevin.

      • The Examiner-1 profile image

        The Examiner-1 2 years ago

        Perhaps something(s) subconciously bothering you NateB11.

      • NateB11 profile image

        Nathan Bernardo 2 years ago from California, United States of America

        Thanks for sharing your experience indanila. Glad you stopped by.

      • indanila profile image

        Inda Blackwell 2 years ago from Hampton Roads

        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!

      • NateB11 profile image

        Nathan Bernardo 3 years ago from California, United States of America

        Yes, stress is definitely a factor oftentimes when it comes to dropping things a lot.

      • peachpurple profile image

        peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

        i drop things when I am tired, in a hurry and feeling down. I guess stres in the factor

      • NateB11 profile image

        Nathan Bernardo 3 years ago from California, United States of America

        I do that kind of thing periodically too, Ron. Fortunately, it's nothing serious, just a little slip of attention like you said.

      • RonElFran profile image

        Ronald E Franklin 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

        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.