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Managing ADHD: The Role of Stimming and Effective Strategies

Updated: Jul 12

Living with ADHD often means that we have to navigating a unique set of challenges. One of them is stimming, or also called self-stimulatory behavior. This behavior is often unconscious and involves repeating certain movements or sounds and is common among individuals with ADHD. Examples of stimming include humming, pacing, teeth grinding, and rocking, though the range of behaviors is broad.


Why Do People with ADHD Stim?

The reasons behind stimming in ADHD can vary greatly depending on the person and their environment. These behaviours might stem from a need to enhance focus, self-soothe, or channel excess energy. For some, stimming can help manage feelings of boredom or understimulation, providing a way to stay engaged in an otherwise unstimulating environment. From my personal experience, I find that I stim more when I'm trying to concentrate or when I haven’t really moved throughout the day. However stimming can also serve as a mechanism to reduce overstimulation and anxiety in more chaotic or busy settings.



When Stimming Becomes a Concern

While stimming is a normal part of ADHD, it can sometimes pose problems if it disrupts daily functioning or leads to self-harm. In such cases, it’s important to explore strategies that can help manage these behaviors. Medication, self-control techniques, and environmental adjustments are often very common methods used to address problematic stemming.


Types of Stimming in ADHD

As you now know, ADHD’ers might stim for various reasons, but not only could the “cause” be different but also how we stim. Here are some common examples categorized by type:


  • Visual: Staring off into space, spinning objects, pacing, doodling.

  • Verbal/Auditory: Repeated giggling, singing, making repetitive sounds, excessive throat-clearing.

  • Tactile: Nail biting, scratching, hair pulling or twirling, chewing the inside of the cheeks, teeth grinding, finger rubbing.

  • Vestibular: Rocking, spinning, shaking the head.





Stimming vs. Fidgeting

Everyone engages in self-stimulatory behaviors occasionally, but there is a difference between fidgeting and stimming. This can include hair twirling, foot tapping, or finger rubbing when feeling nervous. The distinction between stimming and fidgeting is that the stimming behaviors are typically more severe, occur more frequently, and can interfere with social, academic, or professional functioning.

Managing ADHD Stimming

If you find that stimming has become a problem for you or someone you know, there are different treatment options possible. Here are some strategies that may help manage stimming in ADHD:

  • Medication: ADHD medications can help control behaviors by reducing hyperactivity, taming impulsivity, and improving focus. Your healthcare provider may suggest stimulant medications, non-stimulant medications, or a combination of both.

  • Therapy: Behavioral therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can teach individuals to recognize and change unwanted behaviors. CBT goes further in helping a person develop self-awareness and improve focus and concentration. Family-based therapy can also provide support and understanding for loved ones.

  • ADHD Coaching: Working with an ADHD coach can provide personalized strategies and support. ADHD coaching can help you develop skills to manage symptoms, set goals, and create effective routines. They offer practical advice and encouragement to help maintain these strategies. Here you can find more information about my one-on-one coaching and group coaching.

  • Environmental Changes: Adjusting one’s environment to minimize triggers can be beneficial. This might include creating a more stimulating workspace, using noise-canceling headphones, or ensuring a quiet and calm setting for tasks that require concentration.

  • Support Systems: For children, an individualized education program (IEP) or 504 plan can help modify their school environment to better suit their needs. These plans can provide accommodations such as adjusted workloads, breaks, and specialized support. Adults might seek workplace accommodations such as a quieter workspace, flexible schedules, or work-from-home options.


Using Fidget Toys

Fidget toys can be also be a valuable tool for managing stimming behaviors in individuals with ADHD. Here’s how they can help:

  • Enhance Focus: Fidget toys provide a controlled outlet for excess energy, which can help improve concentration and focus during tasks that might otherwise be challenging.

  • Self-Soothing: The repetitive motions involved in using fidget toys can be calming and help reduce feelings of anxiety or stress.

  • Channel Energy: Fidget toys offer a way to channel restlessness into a non-disruptive activity, making it easier to stay engaged in an environment that might not be stimulating enough.

You can find my favorite fidget toys here.

 

Understanding and managing stimming in ADHD is a nuanced process that involves recognizing the underlying causes and triggers. It's important to remember that stimming is a natural behavior and does not always require intervention unless it significantly impacts daily life. By implementing tailored strategies and seeking professional guidance, individuals with ADHD can better navigate the challenges associated with stimming, leading to improved focus and overall well-being.


If you're looking for a supportive environment to explore these issues, consider joining our ADHD group coaching sessions. Our coaching program provides a safe space to connect with others, share experiences, and develop strategies to live authentically and confidently with ADHD.


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