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Stimming: Fidgeting That Promotes Focus?

Stimming: Fidgeting That Promotes Focus?
September 13, 20221 min read

It’s an average day, and you’re seated at work. This could be at a work cubicle, in your dorm, or at home. You’re in front of your computer, and you may (or may not) begin to notice certain repetitive tendencies. Tendencies that could be seen as distracting by some. These could include:

  • Tapping the feet

  • Drumming the fingers

  • Rearranging objects nearby

  • Rubbing the skin

  • Twirling or rocking in a chair

What is taking place is something called Stimming.

Stimming is defined as repetitive movement and activity used to self-stimulate. It is a form of fidgeting. “Now, why on earth would someone do this? Don’t we get enough stimuli in this modern-day society??” Well, the answer to that great question is that stimming is a sort of coping mechanism, especially for those with ADHD or Autism. 

According to, “autistic people often feel overwhelmed by sensory input such as flickering lights or loud noises. Stimming can help them recover a sense of control, calming them and making sensory distraction[s] easier to manage. Stimming is often a sign that an autistic person is overwhelmed and struggling to cope with their emotions”. Understimulation, such as working in a vacuum-like environment, can also elicit stimming.

Fidgeting is traditionally seen as distracting behavior that takes away from productivity. But in its stimming capacity, it effectively does the following:

  • channels the nervous or anxious energy often experienced by neurodivergent beings

  • Assists in the processing of mental, emotional, auditory and visual stimuli

  • Brings a sense of calm to the mind and nervous system

The more extreme forms of stimming, like head-banging and hair-pulling, may prove harmful, but the commonplace gestures like fidgeting objects can actually be a way to ease tension and anxiety. Stimming also prevents ADHD burnout.

Who would’ve thought fidgeting would serve a beneficial purpose?!

Devin Greene

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