ADHD Stimming

The Correlation Between Stimming, ADHD, and Tics Explained!

ADHD Stimming

Stimming, ADHD, and tics are entirely different conditions that are often grouped together. The reason for that is that each disease is strongly linked to the other. For instance, stimming is sometimes a symptom of ADHD, and excessive stimming often develop into significant motor tics.

However, these conditions don’t necessarily appear together. Getting one doesn’t mean that you’ll get the other. The problem is, stims and tics often have overlapping symptoms, and that makes them harder to diagnose. Sometimes they’re entirely misdiagnosed, and sometimes tics may be mistaken for stims and treated negligently. The relationship between stimming, ADHD, and tics goes even deeper, and the best way to understand how the three are related is to study the nature of each of these conditions.

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Stimming – What Is It, and Why Do People Do It?

  • Do you find yourself doing random things with your body, especially when bored, anxious, happy, or frustrated?
  • Have you ever caught yourself shaking your leg while deep in thought? Or whistling aimlessly while waiting for something.
  • Do people often bring up your fidgeting and ask why you do it so much?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, there’s a good chance that you might be stimming. Stimming stands for self-stimulating behavior. To you, it may feel like normal behavior that takes over when you’re bored or more emotional than usual. But in reality, there’s often a lot more to it than what meets the eye. To be clear, stimming is not purely stimulatory behavior. You might be more inclined to think of it as a self-soothing behavior because it helps soothe unpleasant emotions like boredom and frustration. To understand how stims can be soothing, let’s look at what classic stimming looks like.

What Does Stimming Look Like?

Stimming is a type of behavior that’s often repetitive and subconscious in nature. It includes:

  • Handshaking
  • Whistling
  • Rocking back and forth

People who stim find it pleasurable and fun. Mostly, the sensations it provides soothes them, and they may leverage this feeling to distract themselves from unpleasant emotions. Believe it or not, stimming isn’t a standard medical term but a term coined by the concerned parents of children with ADHD and autism. Does that mean that stimming could be a sign of autism? Stimming is commonly associated with autism, but that doesn’t mean it exclusively affects children with autism. It’s pretty common in all children. The only concern when it’s caused by autism is that it can quickly get out of control and lead to worse problems.

That brings us to the types of stimming in children. Usually, most stims are subtle—twisting hair, rubbing the skin, etc.—but sometimes, they may be alarming and dramatic, such as face slapping and screaming. When stims become dangerous enough to cause physical damage, they are considered self-injurious behavior (SIB).

Types of Stimming Behaviors

There are a lot of repetitive behaviors that may be called stims. The one thing they all have in common is that they are purely sensation-seeking. Stimming behaviors fall into five categories:

  • Auditory
  • Visual
  • Olfactory
  • Vestibular
  • Tactile

Auditory Stimming

Auditory stims involve the person’s sense of hearing and presence of sound. In this case, the person is soothed by making or hearing certain sounds. The stims here may include:

  • Humming, grunting, or shrieking
  • Covering and uncovering ears
  • Finger-snapping, tapping on objects or tapping on ears
  • Repetitive speech (song lyrics, movie lines, and book sentences)

People with ADHD may stim in the form of fidgeting– Click the button below to get it under control.

Visual Stimming

Sometimes, stimming involves sending stimuli to the eyes, whether that means blinking a lot or fixating on a single spot. Visual stimming includes activities such as:

  • Staring at objects for a long time (ceiling fans, lights, etc.)
  • Peering at things from the corners of your eyes (eye-tracking)
  • Lining things up (object-placement)
  • Repetitive blinking
  • Turning lights on and off

Olfactory (Smell) Stimming

Sometimes the person engages in stimming activities that involve taste and smell. Some of the repetitive actions are:

  • Placing objects in the mouth to taste them
  • Sniffing random objects
  • Licking

Vestibular (Movement) Stimming

When stimming involves moving the whole body, it may include activities like:

  • Pacing
  • Jumping
  • Rocking
  • Spinning

Tactile Stimming

Tactile stimming involves the person’s sense of touch. Behaviors in this category of stimming include the following:

  • Rubbing or scratching at the skin with hands or objects
  • Hand flapping (when happy, anxious, excited, etc.)
  • Tapping the hands and/or feet on hard surfaces
  • Repetitive clenching and unclenching of hands

Why Stimming Happens?

Stimming is a coping mechanism that subconsciously develops to counteract strong emotions and boredom. When it’s associated with relaxing or concentration, stimming isn’t as bad as you’d think. In fact, you probably perform certain stims when concentrating on a monotonous task. It can be:

  • Chewing on your pen top
  • Biting your nails
  • Tapping your foot
  • Humming

Stims such as these are quite common, and it is only when we do them again and again that they become habitual. Once that happens, we can’t concentrate or deal with boredom without stimming. That’s not the only way stimming becomes a habit. A handful of other hypotheses suggest that self-stimulatory behavior develops for reasons other than to help us concentrate better. For example:

  • Stimming may develop as a response to overstimulation. The person develops stims to cope with excessive sensory stimulation since it helps block out certain sensory inputs.
  • People living with chronic pain indulge in various forms of stimming to reduce pain and discomfort. These repetitive movements may seem pointless, but they release beta-endorphins, which have an anesthetic effect that counteracts pain.
  • Most stims occur as an expression of emotion.
  • For example, happiness may manifest as flapping hands, while nervousness may be seen as biting nails. Intense negative emotions like anger and frustration may sometimes lead to the development of destructive stims.
  • For the most part, stimming is a form of self-regulation. Most people do it to relax or soothe their nerves. Here, almost everyone is guilty because thumb sucking, an activity that most babies use to soothe themselves, is something that many of us did.

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Stimming and Autism – What Is the Connection?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a common developmental condition that affects a person’s ability to interact socially, communicate (verbally & non-verbally), and cope with intense emotions. One of the hallmarks of ASD is repetitive behaviors, many of which are developed subconsciously to soothe, relax, and cope with overwhelming emotions.

That’s why stimming is strongly linked to a complex developmental disorder. Its main purpose, self-regulation, helps people with autism to manage their experience, especially in stressful situations. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM–V), stimming is considered a part of the diagnostic criteria for ASD. The manual reads, in part, that repetitive use of speech, objects, and motor movements, all of which are classified as stims, could be signs of ASD. It continues to say that repetitive behavior which qualifies as ASD symptoms often have significant social and occupational ramifications if not addressed.

People with autism stim for the same reasons other people do: to soothe themselves. Stimming comes as a natural response to stress, happiness, and excitement. In many ways, it can be beneficial to autistic people, especially if it helps them regulate their emotions non-verbally. Everyone stims from time to time, but if compared to the average person, people with autism stim much more often as their condition causes them to constantly struggle with expressing their emotions.

Is Stimming a Sign of ADHD?

Stimming is not necessarily a sign of ADHD. However, there’s no denying that fidgeting, one of the classic symptoms of ADHD, shares a lot of similarities with stimming. Stimming and fidgeting serve the same purpose: to soothe/ calm down nerves. Similarly, they become habitual when performed for a long time.

Stimming is a common ADHD symptom. When left unchecked, it tends to worsen the challenges people living with ADHD often go through. To understand the relationship between fidgeting, stimming, and ADHD, it’s important to look at the different types of ADHD. There are three types of ADHD:

  • Hyperactive
  • Inattentive
  • Combined

If you’ve guessed that hyperactive ADHD has the most fidgeting and stimming, you’ve guessed correctly. Bear in mind, however, that fidgeting, which is essentially a form of stimming, is a hallmark symptom of all types of ADHD.

Hyperactive ADHD

People with this type of ADHD have a constant urge to keep moving. They find it difficult to remain still, whether seated or standing. For instance, they find it quite challenging to sit quietly without fidgeting or squirming. In children, hyperactive ADHD manifests as chronic restlessness, whereby the child spends most of their day moving impulsively. They almost seem to be powered by a motor. Adults with this type of ADHD may contain this physical restlessness better than kids, but they still struggle with self-control. They often find themselves talking too much, speaking out of turn, and even interrupting others during conversation.

The classic symptoms of hyperactive ADHD include the following:

  • Constant fidgeting
  • Talking too much and interrupting others
  • Lack of concentration, especially on monotonous tasks
  • Constant urge to move around, especially in calm and quiet environments
  • Impulsive actions
  • Impatience
  • Reckless behavior even in dangerous situations
ADHD Stimming Behaviors

Fidgeting Vs. Stimming – Are They the Same Thing?

First, let’s define what fidgeting is. We can say that to fidget is to interact with objects outside of your focus zone. Usually, it occurs subconsciously, especially when performing tasks that are boring or repetitive. Fidgeting refers to a wide range of activities, including:

  • Playing with hair
  • Moving body parts
  • Tinkering with personal items like:
    • pens
    • jewelry
    • clothing

Stimming and fidgeting are similar in the outcome they produce. Both actions are usually called up during boredom, frustration, and agitation to soothe and relax and during concentration to enhance focus. Similarly, fidgeting and stimming can vary in intensity from mild to severe. It’s common to see fidgeting interpreted as stimming in ADHD patients. To a certain extent, any sort of fidgeting that provides sensory stimulation, such as foot-tapping, can be considered self-stimulatory. In other words, fidgeting and stimming may refer to the same thing when it comes to ADHD patients.

The Link Between Stimming and ADHD

So, where is the connection between stimming and ADHD? To answer that question, we need to understand how the ADHD brain works. Contrary to anecdotal evidence and urban legend, people with ADHD are not super fast thinkers who struggle with quieting their brains. In reality, the ADHD brain is sluggish. It is so slow that it often starts to drift off or fall asleep. Stimming is just a way of stimulating the brain using the nervous system.

People with ADHD don’t usually know that their brains work a little slower, which is why they develop stims that help them counteract the slowness. These stims quickly become habitual as they become a natural response to drifting off and as they help the people practicing them to keep their minds engaged.

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Stimming in ADHD Children: When to Be Concerned?

Most children are naturally hyperactive at a certain age. They get bored quickly and seek stimulation by:

  • Playing with their toys
  • Moving repetitively
  • Being noisy
  • Generally acting restless

These qualify as stims since they’re self-stimulatory. But does that mean that all types of stimming and fidgeting are warning signs of ADHD? No, it does not. The warning signs you should be looking out for are non-typical and repetitive actions. Most stimming is harmless, but it becomes a problem when it develops into destructive habits that prevent the person from socializing and learning properly.

Know the Difference

At some point, everyone fidgets or stims when they’re bored or trying to concentrate. Most of these actions are normal or typical, and so there’s no cause for alarm if you catch your child fidgeting or tapping their foot while they concentrate on an activity. However, some stims are indicative of an underlying condition, such as ADHD. When the person consistently repeats the stim, or if it is so atypical that it affects how they socialize with others, there is a good chance that the self-stimulatory behavior is a symptom of either ASD or ADHD. Knowing the difference between casual fidgeting and severe stimming will help you know when to seek help for your loved one. Fortunately, the atypical stims are often quite noticeable. In children, you will often notice things like excessive talking, especially when it gets to the point of interrupting others.

Recognizing stimming requires self-awareness, something that most children don’t learn until they’re adults. It is essential to know the difference between boredom and dysfunction. Dysfunctional stimming often goes unnoticed by the children performing it. It is only until it is brought to their attention that they can see how the repetitive behaviors affect them socially, especially if it drives people away. Fortunately for the affected parents, you can tell whether stimming is normal or dysfunctional by observing how disruptive the child’s repetitive behaviors are.

How to Differentiate Between Typical and Atypical Stims? 

Stims caused by ADHD are often manageable with the right toys and techniques. However, this only applies to typical stims. If your child starts showing atypical stims, it may be a warning sign of a more serious underlying disorder.

How do you tell typical stims from atypical ones?


Typical Behaviors

Normal stimming is rarely considered to be odd or disruptive because everyone else does it at some point. Behaviors that are typical in nature might include the following:

  • Foot tapping
  • Cracking knuckles
  • Whistling
  • Playing with hair

Atypical Behaviors

On the other hand, atypical stimming often appears very abnormal, especially when performed repetitively. Usually, this type of stimming can cause harm to those involved. Some of the abnormal types of stimming include:

  • Covering ears with hands in noisy places
  • Walking on tiptoes
  • Jumping repeatedly
  • Chewing on non-edible items (like clothing or hair)

Why Is Stimming Often Incorrectly Misdiagnosed as ADHD?

You might think that these repetitive behaviors are hallmarks of ASD and ADHD, and therefore, can only mean one or the other disease. In truth, stimming is witnessed in many other conditions, including OCD and schizophrenia. The best course of action to take when you notice increasingly repetitive behaviors in your loved one is to seek immediate medical attention. Schedule a consultation with a doctor to get a proper diagnosis soon, for it helps you manage the condition early on. People with stimming disorders may sometimes be misdiagnosed with either ADHD or ASD.

It’s true that these conditions share some symptoms, but that doesn’t make them related. Sure, this overlap in symptoms sometimes causes the respective conditions to be incorrectly diagnosed, but if caught early enough, a keen doctor may be able to tell the difference. Please understand that inaction is rarely an option here. Having either of these conditions (ADHD and ASD) puts one at risk of developing the other. That’s why it’s important to consult a doctor quickly once you observe atypical repetitive behaviors.

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Understanding Tics

A tic is a sudden twitch, movement, or sound that usually happens repetitively and is almost always involuntary. People with tics can’t control them, and even though they’re fully aware of what is happening, they cannot stop their bodies from doing it. A good example of a common tic is repetitive blinking. You might have observed that some people suddenly blink several times in quick succession. This action may be noticeable to them, but they are incapable of intervening. In a lot of ways, a tic is like a hiccup. Hiccups are involuntary, and even when we’re aware of them, we can’t just stop our bodies from doing it. That’s why tics can be very hard to stop. Children can develop tics at a young age, which can scare some parents into thinking they may never go away. In truth, most tics don’t last longer than three months, so there’s usually no cause for concern.

Still, it’s hard not to be concerned when you realize that they sometimes happen during sleep and that the condition can intensify as the child enters adolescence. Tics are also amplified by stress and illness, and sometimes they are bad enough to hinder recovery. However, some tics never go away, and when that happens, it usually indicates an underlying condition. If your child develops a tic that refuses to go away, it is advisable to consult a pediatrician to understand the underlying causes.

Although tics are atypical because they’re sudden and uncontrollable, they can be classified based on their complexity. Tics that involve small actions are called simple tics, while those that engage most of the body are defined as complex tics. Furthermore, tics can be categorized into motor tics, which involve movement, and vocal tics, which involve speech and sound.

Types of Tics

Here are the types of tics:

Simple Motor Tics

Simple motor tics usually involve a single muscle or a simple activity. They include:

  • Lip biting
  • Eye blinking
  • Grimacing
  • Wrinkling the nose
  • Head twitching
  • Shrugging
ADHD Stimming

Complex Motor Tics

Complex motor tics involve more than one muscle group. They usually appear very intentional, even though they’re just as involuntary as simple tics. They include:

  • Jumping
  • Skipping
  • Kicking
  • Sniffing objects
  • Mimicking others’ body movements

Simple Vocal Tics

Simple vocal tics often involve basic sounds such as:

  • Grunting
  • Hissing
  • Clearing the throat
  • Barking
  • Coughing

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Complex Vocal Tics

Like complex motor tics, these may seem quite intentional even though they are usually beyond the person’s control. They include:

  • Making animal sounds
  • Yelling
  • Calling out
  • Repeating certain words and phrases

Types of Tic Disorders

Tics are not always indicative of a bigger underlying problem. When they happen occasionally or only during stressful moments, they’re considered normal. However, if the tic progressively worsens or intensifies, it could indicate a disorder that won’t go away on its own. According to the DSM for mental health disorders, there are three prominent types of tic disorders:

Provisional Tic Disorders

This is the most common type of tic disorder. Tics qualify as provisional when they occur before the age of 18 and last less than a year.

Persistent (Chronic) Tic Disorders

Persistent tics are more noticeable, and usually, they come in pairs. The person may have a motor tic and a vocal tic, but usually not simultaneously. The condition must be present for at least a year.

Tourette’s Syndrome

Tourette’s is not very common, but it is a severe tic disorder. Usually, the person has at least one vocal tic and two or more motor tics. These occur several times a day and present significant social challenges to the people involved.

What Causes Tic Disorders?

Tics can be borne of either biological or environmental factors. When biology is responsible, it is often in the form of a subluxation (dislocation) of a crucial joint in the upper cervical vertebrae. The tension caused by the dislocation translates to the spinal cord and then the brain stem. These organs are all vital for sensory stimulation, so when undue pressure is placed on them, it causes the involuntary vocal and motor movements that we call tics. Tics can also start due to environmental pressure. Chronic stress and traumatic experiences can cause significant psychological distress, which turns into sensory malfunctions after a prolonged period.

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How to Differentiate Between Stims and Tics?

The characteristics of tics and the nature of stims tend to overlap, and when a patient suffers from both, it can be challenging to tell one from the other. It is vital to distinguish between these two to avoid misdiagnosis. Choosing the right treatment requires that you know the specific symptoms to target. Tic disorders can exist independently or as symptoms of a more severe condition such as Tourette’s. Stimming is commonly associated with ASD and ADHD. Interestingly, Tourette shares certain similarities with OCD, which sometimes results in Tourretic OCD. Here, we’ll explore the differences between the two conditions.

What Are the Differences Between Stims and Tics?

To understand why tics and stims are inherently different, you only need to look at the nature of each condition. Stimming is often considered soothing and pleasurable, and even though we might do it subconsciously, we’re always in control of our actions. Tics are much different in that they’re completely involuntary. We don’t think about doing them, and even though we might feel a tic coming, we’re not able to control them either. In a certain way, tics are programmed into your body in a way that overrides voluntary action.

What’s more, tics usually vary from individual to individual, whereas stims can be similar in different people. To better understand the true nature of each condition, here’s a hypothetical scenario involving you. You’re waiting for your turn to be interviewed by a potential employer. As expected, you’re nervous and anxious, and therefore you’re more likely to stim or tic.

Scenario A: Stimming

You start to tap your foot to calm your nerves. It works, but after a while, someone asks you to stop because it’s distracting. You oblige, but your anxiety returns because you’re no longer self-soothing. However, you have complete control over the behavior, so you remain still.

Scenario B: Tics

Your foot begins to tap on the floor as your anxiety increases. The action is expected because tics are more prominent in stressful situations. Someone tells you to stop as it is distracting, but despite your best efforts, you are unable to keep your foot still. The more you repress it, the more the urge to tap it builds up, and eventually, it explodes like a sneeze. These two scenarios shed light on a significant difference between stims and tics. The former is a behavior that we call up to deal with boredom or stress. The latter, however, is beyond our control, especially if it manifests in a stressful environment.

The Key Differences Between Stims and Tics

  • Tics intensify and change over time, whereas a person can have the same stims their whole life.
  • Tics can be simple or complex, but stims, though repetitive, are rarely complex. Most of them are simple actions that are consistently repeated from time to time.
  • Tics are often preceded by what is termed as a premonitory urge, essentially a feeling of distress that manifests as pressure, tension, or even what some describe as itchy blood.
  • Stimming often happens so automatically that we barely notice it beginning and often catch ourselves in the act. Tics are quite uncomfortable, whereas stims are soothing and a good way to regulate sensations and emotions by expending extra energy.
  • Tics are mostly associated with Tourette’s Syndrome, whereby stimming is a common symptom in ADHD and ASD.



Movements are involuntaryMovements are mostly voluntary but subconscious
Repetitive behavior evolves/changes over timeRepetitive behavior stays the same throughout
Involves both simple and complex behaviorsBehaviors are mostly simple
Is preceded by a premonitory urgeOccurs almost subconsciously
Common symptom in Tourette’s and other tic disorders

Common in ADHD, ASD, and anxiety

Tics and Autism – Making the Connection

Even though they have many differences, tics and stims share a lot of similarities. If you observe someone while stimming, it’ll be difficult to distinguish whether that’s a tic disorder or just regular self-stimulatory behavior. It’s more indistinguishable in autistic patients as they’re more prone to frequent and aggressive stimming. When they’re that frequent, you’ll hear them being referred to as autistic tics, which isn’t an inaccurate assessment. A person with autism may also suffer from a tic disorder. Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition within the autism spectrum, is a neurodevelopmental condition that frequently causes motor and phonic tics. Patients are observed to have repetitive movements, difficulty socializing, and poor nonverbal communication. Autistic tics tend to be simple in nature. You’ll hardly find any repetitive behaviors that extend beyond the usual eye blinking and throat clearing.

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Can Stimming That Is Caused by ADHD Lead to Tics?

The biggest challenge for ADHD patients is their inability to concentrate and their perpetual state of hyperactivity. Stimming is a natural response to the condition, and many people with ADHD find it quite useful when trying to counteract the symptoms of the disorder. However, it should be noted that there is a direct link between ADHD and tics. In fact, kids with Tourette’s Syndrome almost always suffer from ADHD as well. To put that into figures we can all make sense of, only 10% of people with ADHD suffer from Tourette’s, but up to 80% of kids with Tourette’s have ADHD. Nevertheless, experts still believe that these are just random co-occurrences and that tics are not always a direct result of ADHD or its treatment.

The Link Between ADHD and Tics

Both ADHD and tics manifest as repeated movements and sounds that appear to be involuntary. Kids with ADHD, especially, might seem to have several tics as they squirm, fidget, and make noise whenever they’re hyperactive. Tics and ADHD also appear at around the same time. ADHD develops between 3 – 6 years of age, whereas Tourette’s is often diagnosed from age seven onward. These conditions become even harder to diagnose when they’re accompanied by learning disorders, OCD, and depression.

What Causes Tics in ADHD Patients?

Tics are not a native symptom of ADHD, but they can be a result of a co-occurring condition. Most of these conditions affect the same parts of the brain, so it’s not a surprise that some of them might have overlaps in symptoms. Most of the time, tics observed in an ADHD patient are likely to be caused by something else. Some of the tic-inducing conditions that may develop alongside ADHD are:


OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)

Tics are a common symptom of OCD, a condition with aggressive compulsions for symmetry and organization. ADHD and OCD have a high likelihood of occurring together.

Tourette’s Syndrome

Studies show that over 90% of people with Tourette’s Syndrome also suffer from ADHD. But since the symptoms of this condition gradually dissipate once the child hits puberty, it is also possible that the tics caused by OCD as well as the symptoms of ADHD reduce when they become teenagers.

ASD (autism spectrum disorder)

About 50% of those with ADHD happen to be on the spectrum. They usually display repetitive behaviors involving the face, body, and voice.

Can ADHD Medication Cause or Exacerbate Tics?

In the 1970s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised against the use of methylphenidate to treat ADHD as it increased the risk of developing tics. The stimulant was later cleared after studies showed no direct links between the ADHD drug and an increased risk of developing tics. Today, the FDA still advises against the use of certain stimulant drugs on people with tic disorders like Tourette’s Syndrome as it may exacerbate their tics. It later approved three non-stimulant medications for ADHD:

  • Guanfacine
  • Atomoxetine
  • Clonidine

While some studies show that these non-stimulant drugs are generally better for managing ADHD in children with tics, others suggest that atomoxetine could result in tics in some children.

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Managing Stims and Tics

Stims and tics eventually become problematic for the person experiencing them. When stimming starts to interfere with a person’s day-to-day interactions or draw negative attention, the people it affects may start to feel marginalized and neglected. The same applies to tics, which see most of its patients singled out for unusual behavior. Even though it’s a good idea to keep stims under control, it’s not easy to manage an activity that helps us relax and feel happy. Stimming is a sensory and emotional outlet, and it shouldn’t be managed using negative reinforcement or punitive methods. Ideally, managing stims and tics should be a slow but steady process that doesn’t restrict too much and adapts to the sensory and emotional needs of the individual.

Should You Control Stims or Tics?

Stims and tics are not always destructive, but when they are, it’s important to learn how to manage them. Rather than completely eliminate your stims, the goal should be to use them in moderation. For example, stimming while working can be considered a productive use of self-stimulatory behaviors if it improves your focus.

To help you understand how severe your stimming is, here’s a quick questionnaire:

  • Are your tics/stims becoming dangerous and destructive?
  • Have your tics/stims caused you to be socially isolated?
  • Is stimming/tics interfering with your performance at work or school?
  • Is stimming/tics interfering with your ability to learn?

If your answer is yes to any of the questions, then you might be in need of tips to help you manage your condition.

Here are ways to reduce the impact of stims and tics in your life:

  • Try to live a calm life. Eliminate all sources of stress and avoid undue tension whenever you can.
  • Create and stick to a daily routine of your most important tasks.
  • Exercise and meditation can improve self-control.
  • Avoid punishing yourself or others with these conditions.
  • Don’t quit stimming cold turkey if you don’t understand the underlying causes.
  • Replace your most destructive stims with acceptable motor activities. A stress ball can be useful if you have restless hands.
  • Seek the guidance of a behavior specialist to learn how best to manage your condition.

Activities That May Reduce Stimming and Tics

Here are the activities that may reduce stimming and tics:

Eliminating Scented Products

Strongly scented products can increase sensory overload, worsening tics in people that suffer from the condition. It’s advisable to stay in a neutrally-smelling room to avoid overwhelming your senses.

Doing Something Creative

Whether it’s playing an instrument or creativity of any sort, being creative is a good way to calm down and relax. Creative tasks often force the whole brain to focus, so tics and stims may be less frequent.

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Talking to Someone

Talking to a friend can be cathartic, which means it can help you release pent-up anxiety. If an upcoming situation or event, such as a presentation or an interview, is making you nervous, try talking to a friend or loved one beforehand. It will calm your nerves and reduce the likelihood of tics or stims occurring.

Use Epsom Salts

Epsom salts are made of magnesium, and apart from being deeply detoxifying, they can relax the muscles and decrease inflammation. When combined with warm water, Epsom salts are a good remedy for muscle pain and tension caused by tics. The magnesium seeps through the skin and relaxes the muscles, preventing undue tension.

Chewing Gum

Gum is a good substitute for the sensory stimulation provided by tics and stims. Keep away from chewing gum if you have sudden inhaling tics (you might swallow the gum).

Chew Necklaces

There are special chew necklaces that are designed to satisfy biting tics. Made from chewy silicone, these necklaces are a good alternative if your tics or stims involve biting fingers and nails. The good news is that they’re widely available in various online stores.


The link between stimming, tics and ADHD is irrefutable, yet having one of these conditions doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get the other two. Stimming is a fairly natural behavior, so you shouldn’t be worried that you might have ADHD if you experience a small degree of stimming. Harmless as it is, however, you should not ignore the warning signs, especially when you notice excessive stimming or tics in young children.

It’s advisable to seek professional advice if self-stimulatory behaviors get out of control. Click below to schedule your appointment.

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