Do you Experience this ADHD trait? "Fidgeting"

Exploring the Role of Fidgeting in ADHD Management

For individuals with ADHD, fidgeting may not just be a restless habit; it's a coping mechanism linked to enhanced concentration. Delving into how fidgeting aids focus, we'll also address potential drawbacks, offering a balanced view on this intriguing aspect of ADHD.

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ADHD Fidgeting: Little Motions to Ease Our Emotions

When you search the term "fidget," you'll learn that it is an act composed of tiny, repetitive motions usually due to certain feelings, such as nervousness, impatience, or even boredom 😬. The person who is fidgeting may or may not be aware of these little motions. 

In ADHD, we might fidget subconsciously to replace - or mask - our hyperactivity. Usually, it happens when other people are watching 🧐or just when we cannot be as active as we would like.

An ADHD child tends to fidget a lot, especially when they are required to sit still 🪑 for long periods. It is not easy for them to do so because their brain is always active, and they have trouble focusing on one thing at a time. Fidgeting can help ease their emotions, improve concentration, and make them feel better.

The repetitive movement can help soothe 🤗 the central nervous system of a person with ADHD. When we fidget, it distracts us from the task at hand and allows us to focus on something else for a moment. This can be beneficial for people with a common symptom of ADHD because it can provide a much-needed break from their racing thoughts. The small movements provide diversionary stimulation that can help refocus the brain.

Why Do Some People with ADHD Tend to Fidget?

When we feel restless because we are preparing for a big event, our focus can sometimes wander. Our thoughts may start to race and we may begin to feel antsy 😬. It is during these moments that we may have trouble sitting still and waiting for our turn. Fidgeting behaviors can sometimes be helpful for us to improve our focus and reinstate our concentration.

Another reason why people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder tend to fidget is to release excess fuel from being hyperactive, where we seem to have an unlimited energy boost ⚡. When we cannot productively release that energy, fidgeting strategies may come in handy.

Other kids might also fidget because they need to start paying attention and stimulate their ADHD brains, but can't seem to focus on the task at hand. Behavioral sciences research 📋 shows that fidgeting can help with concentrating on cognitive tasks. For others, fidgeting can also be an outlet to relieve stress and anxiety and help someone blow off some steam.

The Magic of Fidget Toys

Are you familiar with fidget toys? These are small items to satisfy our fidgeting activities and may come in forms like a fidget spinner, stress ball, or fidget cube. These toys can keep our hands 👐 busy and take our minds off every worry and anxiety present. Now, there are numerous fidget toys to ease our feelings. However, before these items are developed, not everyone has something to fidget with.

For some people with ADHD, playing with pens during boring meetings is often suppressed. For one, it may offend those present in the meeting; secondly, playing with a pen might make it look like we’re not concentrating on the tasks at hand 🤷🖊️. 

ADHD fidgeting: Playing with a pen

But, the thing is, pens or other little things easily accessible can get us through a long period of inactivity. Some may also chew gum or bite their nails when they need to move but can't 🧘.

Some women with ADHD tend to fidget with their hair. 🙋‍♀️ This may take the form of twirling a strand, playing with a ponytail or even flipping their hair back and forth. While this is often considered a nervous habit, for some people with ADHD, this can help ease their emotions, relieve stress, and improve concentration.

ADHD fidgeting: Twirling hair

There are also some people with ADHD that can concentrate more when they rub their face, skin pick, or even hum to themselves. The repetitive movement helps to soothe and calm the central nervous system, providing a much-needed break from their racing thoughts 😊. However, the person's ability to stop fidgeting when needed is just as important as the act of fidgeting itself.

ADHD fidgeting: Rubbing face
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Is Fidgeting Seen as a Bad Habit?

Many adults and children with ADHD who tend to suppress their hyperactivity may use fidget spinners or other toys to release their energy. However, please note that some strategies for fidgeting may harm us. 🤕

While fidgeting can give ADHD support when we need to improve focus, there are times when we cannot stop fidgeting because of too much anxiety 😰.  Eventually, fidgeting can become a habit. If you find that fidgeting is starting to take over your life and you can't seem to focus on anything else, it might be time to get some help.

Some forms of fidgeting are likewise often associated with bad habits like nail biting, skin picking, and hair twirling. While these fidgeting behaviors may provide some relief for people with ADHD, they can also be considered annoying 🤨 to others and can cause other effects on our mental health. In the absence of fidget toys, we may start to do ADHD fidget that may harm us physically without us noticing it.

Fidgeting and Repetitive Body-Focus Movements

When we have no chance to divert our attention and cannot secure phone applications or games 📱 that can help pass time or relieve the anxiety, we may develop a not-so-helpful habit of fidgeting our body and NOT be aware of it.

For example, some people with ADHD may start to excessively tap their feet 🦶 or legs 🦵 when they are feeling impatient or anxious. Others may start to click a pen or drum their fingers on any hard surface. Some may also start to shake their legs when they feel restless. While these fidgeting activities may seem harmless, developing Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs) may sometimes happen.

BFRBs are repetitive body-focused movements that cause physical damage to the person 🩹. The most common BFRBs are trichotillomania (hair pulling), onychophagia (nail biting), and dermatillomania (skin picking). These conditions may seem like normal fidgeting activities but can develop into something more uncontrollable or, worse, may cause physical harm to the individual.

While fidgeting can be a helpful way to relieve some of the symptoms of ADHD, it is essential to be aware of the potential risks that come with it 🤔. If you are starting to develop harmful habits, it is essential to seek professional help as soon as possible.

How to Prevent ADHD Fidgeting from becoming Harmful

To prevent fidgeting from being harmful or damaging, there are tasks that you can do to ease the negative feelings associated with ADHD and its effects on our mental health. We can try a different approach to fidgeting 👌, like:

  • Know our habits and triggers for fidgeting
  • Keep fidget items such as chewing gum, fidget spinners, or stress balls within reach.
  • Set limits ⌚ on how often we fidget and for how long.
  • Find an accountability partner (or your parents) to check if you are fidgeting for too long.
  • Have social activities that make you comfortable, like talking 🗣️ to someone or doing live chat 💬 sessions.
  • Take walking breaks 🚶 or other alternative activities that can replace fidgeting activities.
  • Talk to your mental health professional 👩‍⚕️ or school psychologist regarding medication options to improve focus or concentration.

We need to diagnose ADHD to understand better how fidgeting affects us. After we are diagnosed, we can explore different treatment 💊 🏥 options to help us manage our symptoms and improve our quality of life. We may need something to retain our visual or auditory focus, and fidgeting might be something that can help us establish them.

Everyone fidgets, even neurotypical people. Many children with ADHD can be more prone to fidgeting because they often have trouble sitting still and thinking of ways to release their energy. Fidgeting can help neurodivergent children burn off excess energy ⚡ and focus on the task. The same goes for adults with ADHD. We need an alternative outlet for our stress to function well in our tasks.

Do you Experience this ADHD trait "Fidgeting": FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Does ADHD cause a person to fidget? How does it help?

Fidgeting is an incredibly common behavior that almost everyone does. It can be helpful 😉 for people who have ADHD as it can be a way of releasing energy and it can help you focus. 

What are the common ways of fidgeting?

There are many different ways that people fidget. Some of these include: Playing with their hair or fingernails, Twirling their hair around their finger, Wiggling their legs back and forth (while sitting down), and Rubbing their hands together quickly (as if they were cold).

When is fidgeting harmful?

Fidgeting becomes a problem when it is disruptive to others or a sign of another medical condition. For instance, if a child fidgets in class but does not disrupt his or her classmates, then it's probably fine. However, if the fidgeting interferes with other people's learning, the parents must seek help. It also becomes a problem when it develops into Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior which can cause physical harm 🤕.

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