What is 'the ick' and why do people get it?

Man in woman in argument as woman gets the ick
The ick is often a small detail that you become fixated on. (Getty Images)

If you’ve ever been on a date with someone where you’ve been turned off by the way they eat their food or the way they dress, then chances are you’ve probably experienced 'the ick'.

The ick has been popularised by TikTok over recent years, with videos mentioning the phrase racking up an impressive 368.7 million views on the platform, and videos with the hashtag #ick surmounting 1.1 billion views.

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In one video posted by comedian Hannah Berner that has been viewed 13.3 million times, she asks men what gives them the ick. One man says when women end every sentence with "uh", while another said he gets the ick if a woman gets too distracted by her phone.

In a separate video posted by user Maz Mirzadeh, he asks women what their biggest icks are, and one woman said it’s men in skinny jeans, and another said it's men who ride electric scooters.

In fact, a recent poll of 2,000 people found that 49% of respondents had broken up with a partner because of an ick, with smelling bad, pretending to be more knowledgeable than they are, and being overbearing and rude being listed as the top icks.

Man and woman sit on opposite ends of the couch with woman on phone
One man says a woman being distracted by her phone is his biggest ick. (Getty Images)

What is ‘the ick’?

"The ick is a gut reaction turn-off to something someone does. Icks range from how someone eats their food, to how they dress, to a laugh that's perceived to be annoying," explains dating coach Hayley Quinn.

Quinn adds that one of the funny things about the ick is that, often, what turns you off is a very minor detail.

"In fact if you experience the ick you may wish you could look past it, as the rest of the person seems great," she says.

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For some people, once they get the ick they find it hard to overlook it and choose not to pursue the relationship any longer.

The ick is more likely to happen early on

"Icks tend to happen in the early stages of dating when you're exploring how attracted (or not) you are to someone," Quinn explains. "If you experience an ick on a date, it could be your intuition telling you that you're just not attracted to them, even if they seem like your type on paper."

Quinn says because the ick is a gut instinct, the only time you should ever question it is if you find you are getting turned off on all of your dates.

A photograph of a couple has been ripped in half
The ick is more likely to occur in short-term relationships than long-term ones. (Getty Images)

"This could then be signalling that something in the process of becoming closer to someone just doesn't feel comfortable to you right now," she adds.

However, while getting the ick during the initial stages of dating is more common, it can also happen in long-term relationships.

"This can happen when a previously forgivable idiosyncrasy that your partner has, suddenly starts to revolt you," Quinn says.

"If the ick comes up in this context it could signal a wider dissatisfaction within the relationship. Perhaps you need a bit more personal space, or to give your relationship more dedicated ‘date’ time to help you to romantically connect with your partner again."

It is possible to get over the ick

If you are experiencing the ick in a long-term relationship, the good news is that it is possible to overcome.

"The ick isn't insurmountable, but it may be more worthwhile to work through it when you're in a long-term relationship that is otherwise happy," Quinn says.

Read more: How to tell if a divorce is the right decision for you and your partner

"If it's someone you've just met then don't try to force yourself to like them, this actually sends a bad message to yourself about who you're able to attract with dating. Instead reassure yourself that you'll be able to meet someone who ticks that extra box for you."

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