Mental Health

Key Differences between Stimming, Tics, and ADHD

Stimming, Tics, ADHD Posted On
Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

Stimming, tics, and ADHD can cause a set of pretty similar behaviors, to the point you can’t differentiate them. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do so.

For instance, if you are shaking your leg repetitively when sitting, you could be engaging in stimming. Tics are sudden compulsive sounds, twitches, or movements that are uncontrollable.

On the other hand, ADHD stimming is ideal for engaging your senses when bored, minimizing stress, or managing massive stimuli.

We examine what is stimming ADHD and tics, studying the classifications and management to get to their fundamental differences.

Stimming, Tics, ADHD


Stimming, Tics, ADHD

Stimming means self-stimulating behavior. Meaning you engage in an active pattern to stimulate senses, for instance, humming while bathing, rubbing skin or hands, tapping your toe, or biting fingernails.

Stimming is a term used relating to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Although it’s a symptom of ASD, it’s a common human behavior you will find in almost every being. It’s not bad, but it should be checked when it interferes with others and the quality of life.

Causes of stimming

Anxiety and stress cause stims. It could also signify a call-for-attention. For autistic persons, stimming is because of:  

  • Trying to adapt to a new environment
  • When trying to calm yourself or relieve anxiety 
  • Expressing frustration
  • Stimulating the senses and reducing sensory overload.

Stimming management

Not all stimming patterns call for intervention. However, seek medical assistance if your stimming patterns cause injury or have become time-consuming. 

It’s better to work on managing stims instead of trying to control it completely. Identify your predisposing factors and eliminate them.

You will only manage stimming after identifying the reasons behind it. Know when not to respond. Introduce self-management tools and operate in a safe environment.


Stimming, Tics, ADHD

Tics are short-lasting involuntary uttered sounds or sudden movements that occur in what is typically a normal behavior. Although they can affect persons of different ages, they are more common in children than in adults.

Locally, one out of 162 children, aged 6-17 years, may have tics. The cases could be moderate or severe. Boys are five times more likely to suffer from tics than females.

There are two types of tics–motor (making movements) and vocal tics (making sounds). Each can be either simple or complex. Examples include:

  • Head jerking or facial grimacing
  • Mimicking others
  • Coughing and grunting
  • Making animal sounds
  • Lip biting


Tics are usually caused by anxiety, stress, happiness, or tiredness. Tics become worse when you focus on them.

Tics Treatment and Management

Severe cases of tics may interfere with your daily activities, so you will receive medication to control the interference. However, in most cases, the first treatment is behavioral therapy.

Having tics is like having hiccups. That’s to say, although people suggest different techniques to end hiccups, no one specific approach can end it entirely. Even if you are successful in stopping it, it usually comes back later.

ADHD- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Stimming, Tics, ADHD

This chronic disorder begins in childhood, characterized by impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and lack of attention. Although it is more prevalent in children, it’s also found in adults. It’s usually identified as any of the three types:

  • Inattentive type
  • Impulsive/hyperactive type
  • Both

You do not require a lab test To identify the condition. Diagnosis occurs by collecting information on the child’s behavior. However, you can engage in visual and hearing screening to rule out any other medical challenges.

ADHD causes

There is no particular cause for the condition. However, scientists state that genes contribute to the condition. Other factors include a child born prematurely, brain injury, and whether the mother used alcohol or smoked during pregnancy.

What is Stimming ADHD?

ADHD stimming refers to a self-stimulating behavior where the person engages in repeated activities. Stimming in ADHD can be verbal, tactile, visual, and others, such as swinging or acting a movie scene repetitively.                

Some children with ADHD think they are unable to control their stimming actions, and as a result, there is interference with their learning ability.

Stimming Behaviors ADHD

Stimming Behaviors ADHD

Self-stimulating behavior involves repetitive movements or sounds.

The different types of stimming are:

  • tactile
  • olfactory
  • taste
  • vestibular
  • auditory
  • visual

Examples of ADHD Stimming

Examples of ADHD Stimming
  • tactile: biting nails, scratching, tapping, grinding the teeth
  • visual: staring at movement or light
  • auditory: throat clearing, humming, singing
  • vestibular: head shaking, hopping
  • taste: looking repetitively for special soothing smells
  • olfactory: looking repetitively for special soothing smells

Causes of ADHD Stimming

There’s no specific reason that medics have pinpointed as a cause of ADHD. One of the main theories is that brain activity and brain development affect self-control and attention. An over or under-stimulating environment may also cause stimming ADHD.

Since verbal communication is inhibited, ADHD children take up these patterns to convey information. Some people identify a crawling feeling that is only soothed by stimming to get relief and pleasure. Such persons have turned the stims into habits.

ADHD Stimming Management

You will only succeed in managing ADHD stims after identifying the underlying cause.

Experts believe medications are the most effective way. ADHD medication will help control the behavior by reducing impulsiveness and hyperactivity, aiding concentration

When addressing a particular unacceptable behavior, address the reasons behind it without punishing the behavior. Inspire acceptable habits and self-control.

Introduce alternative patterns to eliminate a negative character. For example, give a fidget spinner or a stress ball if your child is snapping fingers or flapping hands.


While stimming, tics and stimming ADHD present the same repeated behavior, the main differences come in their causes and management. For instance, tics are entirely involuntary, while stimming can be self-stimulating.

Stanford Children’s ADHD

The Warren Stimming

Centers for Disease Control and Tics

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