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Autism is a condition that hinders the social and communication development of the individual. The condition is further characterized by a range of complexities that results in monotonous behaviors whilst affecting nonverbal and verbal skills.

Autism and Stimming

Stimming can also be described as repetitive body movements and is seen commonly among autistic individuals.

However, it should be noted that stimming is not always limited to autistic individuals, at times even non-autistic individuals may also stim.

Ever wondered why people stim? It could be due to one of many reasons, like nervousness. One can identify stimming symptoms by observing behaviors such as hair twirling, or someone continuously biting their nails without any respite.

This insightful article explores why the condition occurs and the different types of stims.

Table of Contents

  • Stimming: What is it?
  • Why does the condition occur?
  • Examples
  • Complications
  • Treatment options

Stimming! What is it?

Stimming is known to take place due to stimulating behaviors resulting in monotonous actions such as rocking continuously or repeatedly fiddling with some object of interest. The condition is also referred to as stereotypy.

The condition is seen commonly occurring among autistic individuals or individuals who are diagnosed with communication challenges or other developmental disabilities.

The condition is seen to include the use of senses such as sound, visual, touch, smell, balance and taste.

Why does the condition occur?

The exact reason behind the trigger is not completely understood. Some studies suggest that stimming provides a pleasurable response to the person in question by releasing chemicals that are found in the brain region. These chemicals are called beta-endorphins.

The beta-endorphin chemical is known to produce dopamine: A chemical known to arouse pleasure sensations in an individual.

While some theorists suggest stimming could be a result of being insensitive to sensory systems, other studies suggest one could benefit from a calming effect. Further, stimming is seen as something which comforts individuals diagnosed with autism and are seen to occur with varying intensities.

The condition is seen to occur among both autistic adults and children. At times, some may stim only occasionally, while others may stim continually. Among some individuals, stimming is observed as a way to react to happiness, excitement, anxiety, fear, stress or boredom.

At times, autistic individuals are seen to stim when they are overwhelmed.

Stimming Examples

Auditory Stimming

This type of stimming is known to interfere with an individual’s sense of sound and hearing. Some of the behaviors that could be included in auditory stimming are:

  • Vocal Sounds (grunting, shrieking or humming)
  • Indulging in finger snapping
  • Monotonous speech (book sentences, song lyrics, etc.)

Visual Stimming

This type of stimming is seen to use an individual’s sight and may include behavioral changes such as:

  • Monotonous gazing
  • Blinking uncontrollably
  • Hand flapping

Tactile stimming

This type of stimming is seen to arise with an individual’s sense of touch and may include:

  • Scratching or skin rubbing
  • Finger Tapping
  • Irregular hand movements

Stimming can also exist in other monotonous behaviors. It is highly advisable to schedule a doctor’s appointment as some behaviors might need timely medical attention.


Although stimming doesn’t make the list of dangerous behaviors, it might end up having some adverse emotional or physical effects in some of the affected individuals. At times, stimming is seen to push individuals to the verge of self-harm.

Further, some adults and children might have their stimming behaviors get in the way of their learning, hindering their focus. At times, misunderstandings arising due to stimming can lead autistic individuals to become restrictive in their approach and socially isolate themselves from others.


Behavioural or occupational therapies can help one manage or prevent stimming behavioral complexities.

Further, stimming is seen to be increasingly visible in autistic individuals who employ stimming as a tool to cope with particular emotions. It should always be noted that stimming shouldn’t be taken away abruptly; rather, it has to be treated gradually, as it could lead to adverse effects.

Experts recommend having other acceptable behaviors to be gradually integrated into the place of stimming behaviors to minimise its intensity. Nevertheless, the replacement behaviors one decides to incorporate should allow the person to have similar pleasurable benefits as was associated with their earlier behaviors.

Some helpful examples of how to reduce stimming behaviors:

  • If you find yourself hand flapping continuously, try placing your hands in your pockets at regular intervals. However, do not overdo it.

Rather, plan to replace your stimming activities in a progressive manner.

  • If you find yourself biting fingers, try chewing a rubber object.

If you have difficulties in overcoming your stimming behaviors, one can also seek out a doctor’s help. Further, it should always be noted one should never try to self-medicate as it could lead to undesirable side effects.

Your safest bet would be to seek out a doctor’s help.

Occupational therapies are seen to be helpful in some of the cases. For example, occupational therapies are seen to work best in cases arising out of sight and sound stimming.

Speaking to a healthcare professional will help you decode appropriate recommendations.

With sophisticated advancement in technologies and treatment options for autistic individuals, one does not have to face challenges arising out of stimming conditions alone.

What Does Stimming Suggest About Autistic Individuals?
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What Does Stimming Suggest About Autistic Individuals?
An article that provides helpful insights about everything you ever wanted to know about stimming
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