Stimming

Hello, my zebras and spoonies. Thank you for coming and hanging out with me today. I am glad that you are here!

Today, I’m going to talk about some of the myths around stimming.

Well, first of all, what is stimming? Stimming is a self stimulatory behavior, and it is a sensation seeking that can ease feelings of anxiety, frustration and boredom. Some people find stimming pleasurable, or fun or relaxing.

The first myth that I want to address around stimming is that it is something that only neurodivergent people do. The truth is that stimming is something that every human being alive engages in to some degree, because stimming exists on a continuum, just like most of human behavior. Most people stim, at least some of the time. So, if you’re chewing on a pencil, biting your nails, tapping your fingers on a desk, twirling your hair around your finger, flattening out the wrinkles in your clothes etc. these things are stimming behaviors. They’re things that we engage in, when we’re bored or frustrated or anxious, and we all do it, you don’t have to be autistic or ADHD to be doing the whole stimming thing. That’s the first myth.

The second myth is that somehow stimming is harmful. It’s not 99% of the time. Stimming is just a repetitive behavior that humans engaged in that has a sense of familiarity and habituation that makes us feel comfortable and safe. It’s completely harmless, there’s no harm in drumming your fingers on the table unless you’re sitting next to somebody who will thump you for it. There are some kinds of stimming that can cause physical damage and these self injurious behaviors need to be addressed, but that is not stimming as a whole. I mean some people engage in nail biting to the point that it causes bleeding painful fingers. This is problematic. There are people who engage in skin picking, where they create wounds, and there are people who bang their head against a wall. All of these behaviors are self injurious. And that’s what’s problematic, not the fact that they’re stimming. So we really need to look at the behavior on a case by case basis and evaluate their behavior for itself and its own sake and ask, Is it causing harm for this individual and if it’s not, leave it alone, because we all do it.

In fact, most stimming behavior is largely ignored. I mean most people don’t think about it when somebody is smoothing over their hair or twirling a strand of hair with their finger. We don’t look at that and say, oh, this person is stimming and they’re anxious. But that’s probably exactly what’s going on. They’re anxious in this social interaction, and they’re engaging in this stimming behavior by twirling their hair around their finger, and it’s helping them deal with the anxiety of the social interaction that they’re currently engaging in. And it’s totally part of being human.

So those are my two myths that I wanted to bust. Is that stimming is part of being human, not part of being neurodivergent. And that stimming is harmful because it’s really not. There are some types of stimming that’s harmful, but it’s a really small minority. For the most part, stim on. And, hey, Get your relaxation and your comfort where they come.