Self-stimulatory behaviour, also known as stimming and self-stimulation, is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities, but most prevalent in people with autistic spectrum disorders. Stimming behaviours have also been noticed in those with mental health problems or those who have been through some type of trauma.
Stimming is considered a behaviour that provides calmness and stimulation. It is also noted to be self-soothing during anxieties, psychosis, unsettled environments and trauma.
Common stimming behaviours, called stims, include:
- hand flapping
- head banging
- repeating noises or words
- snapping or tapping fingers
- clapping of the hands
- spinning objects
Stimming is usually related to the senses.
- Visual: Staring at lights or ceiling fans; repetitive blinking; moving fingers in front of the eyes; hand-flapping, gazing at nothing in particular; tracking eyes; peering out of the corners of eyes; lining up objects; turning on and off light switches.
- Auditory: Vocalizing in the form of humming, grunting, or high-pitched shrieking; tapping ears or objects; covering and uncovering ears; snapping fingers; making vocal sounds; repeating vocal sequences; repeating portions of videos, books or songs at inappropriate times.
- Tactile: Scratching or rubbing the skin with one’s hands or with another object; opening and closing fists; tapping surfaces with fingers and the hand.
- Vestibular: Rocking front to back; rocking side-to-side; spinning; jumping; pacing.
- Taste: Placing body parts or objects in one’s mouth; licking objects.
- Smell: Sniffing or smelling people or objects.
While the underlying cause for stimming is not clear, repetitive movements are associated with a number of medical and/or psychiatric conditions:
- Sensory deprivation (blindness or deafness)
- Seizures or brain infection
- Intellectual disability
- Drug use
- Psychiatric disorders like autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychosis and anxiety
- Undiagnosed pain
- Pervasive developmental disorders (PDD)
For more information on stimming, visit autism.wikia or speak to a professional. If you would like to talk please email: