What is Stimming ADHD: In-Depth Guide About Stimming With Examples

Julia Ovcharenko, CEO of Numo
January 12, 2024

Have you ever found yourself making a certain noise or moving in the same way over and over? Like, you hum in your head, nibble on your nails, or twirl your marker to focus during your study session. Or, at times, anxious strikes, resulting in the fingers flapping or leg tapping.

Probably, you're just stimming for better. That can be a sign of ADHD in adults or kids, too. Stimming isn't just a simple distraction; it's our tool for focus and self-regulation.

Scroll down to learn about:

  • What is stimming in ADHD
  • Why do you keep doing it
  • How to deal with it

...and much more!

So let's get going!

[What is ADHD Stimming?] So, What Is Stimming in ADHD?

In a nutshell, stimming for an ADHD person is some kind of repetitive and stimulating behavior. `Common examples of ADHD stimming are humming, rubbing knuckles, lip baiting, and so on and so forth. 

The point here is that this movement/thoughts/behavior should be repetitive and triggered by intense emotions or a lack of stimulation. So, you can, as an ADHDer, self-soothe or increase your attention and concentration.  [1] 

Stimming is more than some behavior; it's a smart way our minds and bodies cope. Thus, you may experience it regardless of the type of ADHD you have.

For the sake of being more precise, science says that almost 40% of kids with inattentive-type ADHD do motion-based stims, like pacing and tapping – typically for that ADHD type for enhancing focus [2].

ADHD stimming can be a good way to boost mental focus and regulate emotions. It is often non-harmless and beneficial to do so, to be honest. Be kind to yourself next time you chew on the end of your pen out of fret.

[ADHD Stimming Causes] But Why Do People with ADHD Stim?

The question rather is, “Does ADHD cause stimming”? It's likely that ADHD brain function is at play here. In this way, you can cope with things ADHDers face, such as staying seated, maintaining focus, and handling emotions. Now let's take a closer look at the reasons: 

  1. To let off steam: There's a lot of energy in attention-deficit brains, just like those game characters with extra power. Stimming, whether it's tapping, pacing, or bouncing, is like letting out a bit of that energy. It's how we keep up without feeling overwhelmed.
  1. To ward off boredom: People with ADHD may look for things that amp up dopamine or bring some excitement. So, stimming becomes like our personal trump card. It's a way to shake off the boredom with something fun or interesting.
  1. To keep focused: It can also be like a secret strategy to keep you focused. When things get a bit fuzzy or overwhelming, a little movement or touch helps bring us back to the main quest. It's our way of saying, "Hey, brain, let's keep going!"
  1. To calm us down: Stimming is the calming background music that helps us cope with a condition. You can keep stress down by rubbing a stress ball or chewing gum. It's how we stay cool and collected, even when life gets really tough.
  1. To cool down sensory: For people who think a little differently, like us with ADHD, things can get a bit too much sometimes. So, to feel better, you might do something like tapping fingers or feet – it's like their way of de-stressing from sensory overload.

[ADHD Stims Triggers] What Triggers Stims in ADHD

Boredom Buster

Stimming stems from boredom or a desire to heighten stimulation and attention in an environment that lacks excitement. For instance, a child with ADHD begins kicking their feet in a boring class or when they sit for a long time.

Energy Explosion and Anxiety

Also, sometimes stimming happens when you're trying to calm down. The environment of a busy store or gym is likely to trigger anxiety in you. In such cases, stimming is a self-calming way to redirect mind-wandering.

Positive Emotions Trigger, too

It's not necessary for stimming to be out of stress. A lot of ADHDers engage in "happy stimming." It is more of a way of letting our happiness out rather than boosting concentration.

[Types of ADHD Stimming] 4 Types (with Examples) Of ADHD Stimming

Even though there may be some similarities, each person's stimming is a unique expression of their unique developmental differences. Curious about what stimming looks like for ADHD folks? Here are some of the ways we move through the world every day:

  • Stimming by touch

Touching everything that has a wired texture around us is what tactile stimming is all about. You might rub your fingers against textured surfaces, compulsively brush your hair endlessly to touch how silty it is, or play with the buttons in the shirt. It can be this soothing when we touch textured stuff, yeah?

  • Stimming with the mouth

It can be grunting, clicking our tongues, whistling, or humming a tune. Or when we're keeping biting things off that will fit our mouths. Anything from a necklace to a strand of hair or even the skin of a fingernail could work. Most of us resort to verbal and oral stimming when our work seems to go on forever. IDK, it helped ease my anxiety at some point too.

  • Stimming with body movements

When walking, we may shuffle our feet rhythmically or follow the jump on dome shapes on the ground. This kind of self-stimulation helps us hone our motor and balance abilities while focusing on some things at the same time.

  • Smelling Stimming

Many people with ADHD do this by sniffing hands with rosy head cream or that stinky hand sanitizer 😀 over and over. Yeah, for ADHDers, strong scents relieve stress and curb their impulses.

[Tips for ADHD Stimming] 5 Solid Tips for Dealing with ADHD Stimming

Stimming is totally cool, but sometimes it can be a head-scratcher. If you notice you have been stimming a lot recently, start with a chill moment and try to figure out why. Maybe it's a way to feel comfy or focus better. If it starts causing some hardships in your life, here are some friendly ways to help out.

Tip #1 Find Out What Triggers the Behaviors

Time for some introspection. What causes these movements or thoughts? Next time you notice yourself stimming, just take a quick look at what might have set it off. Was it a boring task, or maybe there was too much noise around?

Find out what usually triggers it and see if there's a simple way to make it less. If work's dull, try changing the scene, like going to a library or a coffee shop with a quiet atmosphere. And if loud places stress you out, plan to leave a bit earlier. It's like adjusting the dial to make things more comfy for you.

Tip #2 Set Up Stim-Friendly Tools and Spaces

If you find self-stimulation helps you calm nerves and fight boredom, experiment with healthy self-stimulation methods. For that, create a stim-friendly space for yourself. Place fidget tools, textured stuff like koosh ball, and comfortable seating in spaces where you work and relax. You can use them as sensory outlets for you to let out your emotions without harming yourself.

Tip #3 Get Support from Pros

If you're dealing with ADHD stimming that out of control, like skin picking, the professionals can lend a hand. Medications designed for ADHD can be a game-changer, helping you handle symptoms and stay focused, meaning less need for stimming.

Therapy sessions are another ace move. They help you spot behaviors that might mess with your groove and swap them out for healthier ones. 

Tip #4 Get Support and Answers on the Numo ADHD App

As you explore self-discovery and empowerment with Numo, you can navigate stimming with ease. This app is designed to help you embrace your unique coping strategies.

In the midst of sensory overload, the Numo ADHD App can provide users with useful interactive features. Through squads and tribes, you get to connect with fellow ADHDers who are willing and able to share their personal experiences with unhealthy stimming.

It's not just an app - it's a road map to navigating the experience of stimming with no gatekeeping ADHD community.

Tip #5 Self-Care and Mindfulness

If your stimming habits are a byproduct of anxiety and fidgeting, practicing mindfulness and moving your body can provide a more useful outlet for releasing your stress without harmful habits.

[Summary] Summary

ADHDers have a tendency to stimm in times of overwhelm, stress, or distraction to regulate emotions. Having a stimming habit can help ADHDers feel calm and focused. Stimming in ADHD is quite normal, but if it becomes bothersome, it is better to know how to manage it.

For instance, a friendly ADHD community can help you overcome unhealthy stimming behaviors through treatment, support, and of course, memes!

Remember, stimming is part of what makes you uniquely you. Embrace it, understand it, and use it to get where you want to go. 

Come along if you stumble, and join the Numo. Let's get together!

ADHD and Stimming FAQs

Why do some people with ADHD stim?

The main purpose of stimming is self-soothing. This usually happens when someone feels overwhelmed or if they need to focus.

What are examples of ADHD stimming?
Think pen clicking, desk drumming, hair twirling, or even daydream doodling. Also, finger tapping, lip biting, fidget spinning, or even the classic leg bouncing. 

Is ADHD stimming harmful to me?

We often think stimming isn't a good thing because it can be noisy, intense, and chaotic. 😞A purpose of stimming behaviors is often for relaxation, to focus or boost energy, or to maintain control. Stimming in ADHD is definitely normal, but if it becomes annoying in everyday life, it is better to know how to manage it. 


2. Journal of Pediatrics. Clinical Practice Guideline for the Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents
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