Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) stimming is self-soothing, repetitive behavior that a person with ADHD may perform consciously or unconsciously. It may help with concentration or processing emotions.

ADHD is a condition that affects how the brain functions. It can lead to difficulties with concentration and focus and behavioral issues. ADHD is a common condition. People typically receive a diagnosis during childhood.

In this article, we will discuss ADHD stimming, including some examples of these behaviors, the differences between ADHD and autism stimming, how to manage stimming, and more.

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People with ADHD may experience difficulty concentrating, sitting still, and processing emotions.

According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA), a person with ADHD may perform behavior known as stimming to self-stimulate and self-soothe while experiencing these difficulties.

Stimming may help a person with ADHD do the following:

ADHD stimming behaviors are typically repetitive and may be conscious or unconscious.

A person with ADHD may find certain sensations or elements of their environment overwhelming and overstimulating, such as bright lights, loud sounds, and large crowds. They may use stimming to help them cope in these situations.

There are several different types of ADHD stimming that may be verbal, physical, visual, or related to sound.

According to the ADDA, some examples of ADHD stimming can include:

  • drawing or doodling
  • rearranging objects
  • turning pages
  • humming
  • tongue clicking
  • whistling
  • tapping the fingers
  • copying noises in the surrounding environment
  • listening to the same song on repeat
  • playing with the hair
  • biting the nails
  • biting the skin on the fingers or inside the mouth
  • picking skin or scabs
  • playing with clothes
  • pacing
  • rocking back and forth
  • leg shaking

A person without ADHD may display self-stimulating behaviors or fidgeting, such as nail biting. However, ADHD stimming is typically more extreme than fidgeting and may impact a person’s daily life.

People with ADHD may not realize they are stimming, as it can be unconscious.

An autistic person may also engage in stimming.

Stimming related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may involve hand or finger flapping. Research suggests autistic people may find stimming helpful to shut out external stimuli, which are detectable changes outside a person’s body, such as loud noises.

ASD stimming typically involves repetitive, rhythmic body movements and sometimes sounds. The most common reasons for ASD stimming can include:

  • dealing with an overload on the senses
  • trying to cope in an overwhelming environment
  • processing emotions, such as anger, excitement, or anxiety

ADHD stimming can be similar to ASD stimming. Both ADHD and ASD stimming may help a person cope with sensory overload and feel calmer when experiencing stress or anxiety.

However, according to the ADDA, when a person with ADHD stims, it may also help with concentration.

ADHD stimming typically involves touching external objects or performing fidgeting-type movements. ASD stimming typically involves bodily movements and vocalizations.

A person with ADHD may find that certain situations, emotions, and environments can aggravate their ADHD symptoms.

As stimming can be a coping mechanism for people with ADHD, certain triggers may lead to ADHD stimming. Some of these include:

  • situations, such as conflict, making mistakes, and rejection, that involve certain emotions
  • distractions, such as phones, televisions, and music
  • busy environments with lots of noise or movement
  • cluttered or messy environments
  • distracting smells or strong odors
  • bright, flashing, or stark lighting

ADHD stimming may help a person with ADHD cope with certain situations. However, some forms of ADHD stimming, such as biting skin or picking scabs, can cause a person physical harm and may disrupt daily life.

For this reason, a person with ADHD may want to manage some of their stimming behaviors.

People with ADHD may be able to manage stimming by identifying triggers and finding ways to reduce them. This may include:

  • finding new environments that are less triggering
  • limiting the amount of time they spend in overwhelming situations
  • putting devices into silent mode or switching them off

There are also ADHD medications that may help a person manage ADHD stimming. Some other ways to manage ADHD stimming can include:

  • taking deep breaths or trying breathing exercises to reduce stress or anxiety
  • scheduling breaks when performing long tasks
  • breaking large tasks down into smaller, manageable goals
  • keeping environments clutter-free and organized
  • using noise-canceling headphones
  • doing physical activity
  • working with another person present to help with focus and concentration
  • attending sessions with an ADHD coach to learn new ways to manage stressful situations
  • playing certain video games, which may help a person with ADHD improve overall concentration

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ADHD stimming is a repetitive behavior that is self-stimulating and self-soothing. A person with ADHD may stim to help them focus when they are bored or struggling to concentrate, to cope with stress and anxiety, and to express excitement.

Examples of ADHD stimming behaviors may include tapping the fingers, doodling, and playing with objects.

A person with ASD may also use stimming as a coping mechanism. ASD stimming and ADHD stimming share some similarities. However, there may be several differences between the two.

People with ADHD may have certain triggers that can lead to stimming, such as overly stimulating environments, overwhelming situations, and distractions, such as noise and movement.

A person may be able to manage ADHD stimming by identifying triggers and finding ways to avoid them. For example, someone may be able to find new environments to work or socialize in, take regular breaks, or speak with an ADHD coach. A healthcare professional may also recommend medications for ADHD.