ADHD Stimming

ADHD And Self Stimming Behavior

When I'm restless or need to concentrate on a boring task, you'll often catch me chewing on my pen or humming a catchy tune stuck in my head. I don't always notice when I'm engaging in these self-stimulating behaviors, but when I do, I realize it helps calm and focus me. 🧘

Stimming is common among those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to relieve stress, distract themselves from a challenging environment, and self-soothe when overwhelmed

However, some research suggests those with ADHD may also stim. Despite differences in brain function, both groups struggle with executive functioning, focusing, emotional regulation, and impulsivity. 🧠

But why do some with ADHD stim? Is this behavior harmful or disruptive? What types of stims are common for those with ADHD? Let's explore these behaviors more. 👇

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What Are Stimming Behaviors?

Stimming refers to movements or noises that serve no apparent purpose. Those with ADHD may stim as a response to stimulation, boredom, or stress. Self stimulation can also occur as a way to find relief from ADHD symptoms such as  sensory overload or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, feeling understimulated. 🥱

In addition to ADHD stimming, people stim for other reasons, too. For example, a mental illness such as anxiety social anxiety disorder can trigger stimming when faced with anxiety or an unfamiliar or unpleasant environment. Other examples of non autistic stimming also include tic disorders, tourette syndrome and developmental disorders


Like those with autism, some with ADHD stim frequently. This can involve bouncing legs, hand flapping, finger flicking, or repetitive sounds. More extreme stims like nail biting or skin picking may become destructive. 🤯

However, ADHD stims often help improve focus, ease discomfort, or relieve boredom. By redirecting negative energy, they can be coping mechanisms. 💜 Self-awareness about which stims could be harmful is key. Then, we can better manage these behaviors. 

Examples Of Self Stimulatory Behaviors In ADHD

Like individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), every repetitive self stimulating behavior is unique to each person with ADHD. However, there are a few stimming behaviors that appear to be most common. 👇

Oral Stimming

This self stimulatory behavior includes biting on objects or chewing on non-edible items like pens or shirt sleeves. More severe cases can involve behaviors such as eating hair strands (trichophagia). 👄

Verbal Stimming

Vocal stimming includes repetitive sounds or noises like grunting, tongue clicking, whistling, or humming. Verbal stimming often occurs when people with ADHD are lost in thought or trying to focus. 💬

Visual Stimming

Visual stimming involves engaging in activities that involve arranging items symmetrically, lining up objects, or tracing patterns. 

This can also include staring at moving objects or being drawn to patterns, symmetry, and bright colors. 👀

Auditory Stimming

Auditory stimming includes behaviors like listening to music or sounds at high volumes to block out external stimuli. 

Common auditory stims for people with ADHD includes repeating words, mimicking sounds, or humming to themselves to aid focus and alleviate boredom. 👂

Vestibular Stimming

Involves movements related to balance and motor skills, such as walking on tiptoes, maintaining specific walking patterns, swinging arms, or spinning around. These behaviors can help people with ADHD focus and manage anxiety. 💃

Olfactory Stimming

Triggered by sniffing or smelling objects, seeking out strong smells for calming purposes. Some people with ADHD may repeatedly smell their hands, clothes, or scented items. 👃

Tactile Stimming

Engaging in tactile sensations by rubbing fingers against textures, compulsively brushing hair or skin, or fidgeting with clothes. These behaviors provide a sense of calmness and focus. 👏

Although everybody stims differently, the reasons behind it usually involve some form of self-soothing or an intention to improve focus and concentration. 🔎

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Why Do People Consider Stimming To Be Undesirable Behaviors? 

While stims aim to calm and focus, they may appear disruptive, intense, or uncontrolled. When stimming, someone can seem spacey, uninterested, or disrespectful. The repetitive behaviors may annoy others. 😞

For example, noisy movements like finger tapping or leg bouncing can disturb people nearby. At work, school or university, stims may seem inappropriate or unprofessional. 😬

Understanding our stimming tendencies and learning to manage them when needed is important. You don’t always need to stop stimming - more often than not, it serves an important purpose. 

However, they may unintentionally bother others or cause misperceptions. Awareness and self-regulation skills help prevent stims from interfering with relationships or our goals. 👍

How To Healthily Manage Stimming Behaviors

Here are some tips for keeping stimming behaviors healthy. 👇

  • Avoid stims that cause self-harm, like skin-picking, hair-pulling, or nail-biting to the point of injury. Find alternate ways to self-soothe, if possible.
  • Be aware of stims that may annoy others, like loud vocalizations or fidgeting that shakes a shared table. Stim discreetly when needed or explain your needs to others.
  • Take breaks from repetitive stims to avoid hurting your body or interfering with tasks. Set reminders to pull you out of a trance-like, hyperfocus state if needed.
  • Keep designated fidget toys on hand to satisfy sensory needs and redirect negative energy. Items like spinner jewelry, stress balls, fidget spinners, or chewy jewelry can help.
  • If a stim preoccupies you or causes significant distress when unable to do it, consider seeking help to find a healthier alternative.
  • Stim purposefully when you need help concentrating or calming down. Controlled stims can optimize your functionality.
  • Notice if new stims emerge during high stress. Address the root cause and avoid harmful coping mechanisms.
  • Try to respect others' sensory needs and listen if your stimming bothers someone.
  • Explain your stimming to loved ones so they understand it's not meaningless behavior. 

The aim is not to eliminate beneficial stims entirely but to minimize disruption and harm

With understanding and management, we can stimulate in ways that work for us while maintaining mutual respect and nurturing relationships with our loved ones and colleagues. 🥰


Stimming is a common self-soothing technique for those with ADHD and other conditions. While the behaviors may seem unusual or disruptive to others, they serve an essential purpose. People stim to manage emotions, focus, and cope with sensory needs.

Rather than aiming to eliminate stims completely, we can develop self control regarding our stimming. Many options to support this include fidget toys, chewing gum, stress balls, and music

Remember, the goal is not always to avoid stimming or reduce stimming. Sometimes, it is about learning how to meet our sensory needs while minimizing disruption to others or causing harm to ourselves. 

Ultimately, stimming is a natural response and coping mechanism for many neurodiverse people. With acceptance and strategies for self-regulation, we can keep the benefits while reducing any unintended friction. 

It's all about stimming smarter – keeping ourselves centered while maintaining mutual understanding with those around us.

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ADHD and Stimming: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is ADHD stimming common?

Yes, stimming behaviors are common among those with ADHD. Repeated physical movements or sounds can help many people stay calm, focus, and relieve restlessness.

What does it mean to stim with ADHD?

Stimming refers to self-soothing behaviors that provide sensory input for someone with ADHD or ASD. This stimulation can help manage energy, anxiety, boredom, or distractions.

What are some examples of stimming?

Stimming manifests differently for each individual. However, common stims for those with ADHD include: Fidgeting with hands or feet Tapping fingers or shaking legs Chewing on pens or nails Picking at skin Sniffing scents or clothes Humming, whistling, or making sounds Rocking, pacing, or bouncing Twirling or playing with hair Flapping hands or arms

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