How To Manage And Reduce Stimming Behavior

Stimming behavior is short for self-stimulating, often repetitive, behavior. Examples of stimming behavior include biting your fingernails, twisting your hair around your fingers, jiggling your feet, tapping your fingers on a surface, and cracking your knuckles (via Healthline). Stimming is also characteristic in people with autism, but these behaviors are generally more exaggerated and can include flapping hands, humming, jumping, pacing, and repeating phrases. 

While not everyone who has a stimming habit is autistic, most people with autism will exhibit some form of stimming, according to Medical News Today. Psychology Today reports that the behavior may help people with autism control their emotions and possibly even cope with pain. For this reason, stimming doesn't necessarily need to be controlled. However, some stimming, such as hair pulling or head banging, can be harmful. In these extreme cases, it is important to learn to manage stimming to avoid any complications, per Medical News Today.

Every case is different

While stimming might make some people uncomfortable, it's not always a good idea to try to force someone to stop. Since the behavior functions as a coping mechanism, forcing them to stop could result in them lashing out, becoming withdrawn, or being extremely nervous, according to Psychology Today. It's also not a good idea to punish someone for stimming, because it could lead to worse behavior. However, each case is different depending on the behavior and what — if any — problems it creates, reports Healthline.

One tip to managing stimming is to keep a regular routine, since unfamiliar places can trigger an episode. Identifying other triggers, and doing what you can to either remove or reduce them, can also help reduce stimming. If sensory overload is causing the behavior, moving to a calm area can help. Affirming positive behavior can sometimes lead to better outcomes. Sometimes, it's helpful to speak with a professional that can help you find specific ways to cope.