What IS Stimming? – All About Autistic Stimming (with examples & a word about self-harm & stims)


Hi everybody. Christa here. Some of you know me online as the Neurodivergent Rebel. I’m a late diagnosed autistic adult, and by late diagnosed, I mean I didn’t know I was autistic until I was almost 30 and it actually was quite a shock, but at the same time, all of a sudden, a lot of things in my life suddenly made sense.

And one of those things that suddenly made a lot of sense was stimming. I was so excited when I found out about stimming because I am a very, very stimmy autistic person and it was really great to learn more about something that has always been a very big part of my life. Um, so first, you know what, what is stimming, uh, well, we’ll do this medical definition and I’ve got my.

Sparkly, glittery stimmy notebook here. Um, with my medical definition written down in my notes to keep me on track because I’m autistic, executive functioning, I, I struggle to keep myself going in order. So notes, um, so the medical definition of stimming self stimulatory behaviors using usually involving movements or sounds.

Also really bad handwriting. And let me, let me give you a human explanation because that medical definitions kind of doesn’t really say much, does it? I mean, a little bit. So autistic people stim. For energy regulation and emotional expression. We can also stim to ground or sooth ourselves. Stimming is often related to the senses, you know, are sense sight, smell, touch, sound, uh, um, movement, you know, all of those things.

Um, and. Something that I think it’s important to note is everybody stims uh, even animals stim, it’s not unique to autistic people, and it’s not even unique to humans. But one thing that is different with autistic people is the frequency of our stimming. We stim more than the general population. A lot of us.

Not all, because every autistic person is different and we all have our unique experience. A lot of us are constantly in motion, and we just move. If we let our bodies move naturally. Uh, whereas with non autistic people trying to be still might not be a very difficult task. That requires a lot of mental energy.

For the autistic person, it may be. It is for me. So let me give you some examples of stimming. So there are, um, you can, you can stim verbally where you make sounds with your mouth. Sing to yourself, talk to yourself. You’re listening to the sounds you’re making and you are talking to yourself. Um, there are, and that can be unintentional.

You might not even realize you’re doing it. And I don’t realize I’m doing it a little time. Um. You can do all of these little flappy things with your hands and these tapping and you can rock back and forth. Um, maybe tapping your fingers on the table, tapping your toes or your foot under the desk. Uh, the leg bouncing.

Uh, these are all things that you do automatically, uh, maybe without even thinking about it and you don’t realize you’ve done it. You don’t intentionally do these things. They just happen naturally when you have a spike in energy or a spike in an emotion. Because when you have a spike in an emotion, your energy has a spike.

And so like, you get suddenly very happy and then I’m happy in my hand, go up, you know, uh, or you get. You get startled, and you may, you know, are upset and you may retract into a bowl of rock in this way. Uh, and so it’s also, like I said, a very good, um, way to see what else an autistic person is feeling is there stims.

If you learn that autistic person’s stims, you can really learn a lot about, you know, how the autistic person is feeling based on how they are stimming. That’s why I said, you know, it can really be a like an emotional expression, but it also is like the release of emotional energy or to cancel out another.

Stimulus or sense that is unpleasant. Um, and you know, when we were talking about regulating and canceling out other senses or feelings that are unpleasant, we talk about intentional stimming. This is, you know, where we are going to seek out a stim. And a lot of us will seek things out very naturally from the time we are small children, uh, to ground ourselves and to soothe ourselves.

Uh, so, you know, for me, this stimmy notebook is just delightful and I could sit here and the world disappears and I’m in the present moment for a minute, and I feel very calm. Um. It’s, it’s like, you know, autistic mindfulness in a way. Uh, you know, it helps you to slow down and not worry or think about anything else.

Um, and if you also happen to have anxiety, um, being able to slow down and stop worrying for a minute, uh, and just breathe, uh, is really priceless and very valuable. Uh, so. You know, there are other things you can do that are intentional, stimming a lot of things. Revolving music, dancing about, uh, listening to the same song on repeat.

I sing really badly and really loudly. Sorry. Everyone around me. Sorry, dog. Sorry, Dave. Sorry. Humans. Sorry. It’s not about the performance for anybody else. It is completely about the joy and sensory experience for me of singing. Um. You can also, you know, like my stimmy book, you can engage with stim tools or stim objects.

Uh, you can chew on, uh, chewy jewelry or gum or candy. Um. All of those things are stims that someone can, you know, like I’m like, Oh, I’m craving a Popsicle. I’m craving my stim. I want to bite and crunch and feel the ice in my mouth. I’m craving that stim, so I’m going to go get that stim out of the freezer and engage in it.

So it can be something that we do on purpose because we’re like, Oh, I want, I want this, damn, I need this. I need to feel this sensation is what it can be like sensory seeking. And a lot of these stims are well and good. And if an autistic purser person is stimming and it isn’t hurting anybody, let them stim.

But that said. There are some harmful stims. There are stims that people, uh, you know, say are “not cute” or, or a little bit “more scary” for the person on the outside if they don’t understand what’s happening on a deeper level. Uh, so some of these stims that. People may not understand are: punching, and that can be like yourself watching your own legs, you know, punching yourself, uh, other people or walls, uh, destroying property, um, biting self, others, clothings, uh, scratching, picking at your skin.

Um, and all of these things are not great, but. You know, it’s important to remember that autistic stimming does serve a purpose, and often they will, it highlights some sort of underlying issue. Uh, and it is, you know, that regulation of some kind of energy. So there is an intense emotion or an intense pain, or there is something else intense happening with the autistic person that has triggered this.

Really intense display of emotion. This doesn’t come out of nowhere. This, it may seem to you like this has come out of nowhere, but there is a trigger. Um, and you know, you can displace, uh, stims because a lot of times, even sometimes these really harmful stims can be a displacement for, you know, a very intense feeling or a very intense pain.

For example, you know, if you have a tooth ache, it is the worst. One of the worst pain imaginable. If you have a really bad, tooth ache, but if you can’t communicate, you have that tooth ache and you are just stuck in that tooth ache. Imagine how frustrating that would be and how much pain you would be in. And you know, someone might be punching themselves because this feels less painful than the tooth ache.

Um, for example, with my own personal, uh, recent, not re not too recent, thank goodness it’s been a year, I think, or more now I slammed one of my hands. In our RV door, and it is a metal frame heavy door. And it was extremely painful and it was in pain for a lot of weeks after that. And my instinct was to immediately bite the other hand very hard actually.

Um, and one might think, well, why is that even logical? Okay, you’ve just, you’ve just possibly broke one hand. Now you’re going to damage the other hand. You only have two. What are you gonna do? You’re gonna have no hands left. Why? But this was in so much pain, I couldn’t take it. And so by adding the other hand and having control over that pain allows me to cancel out the original pain that I can’t control and couldn’t handle.

So it’s really just channeling and displacing, you know, those pain and the emotion. So that, that, that stim, okay, that energy needs to get out. It needs to go somewhere. Otherwise you feel like you’re a volcano about to erupt. Um, and so you can substitute it with something else that’s very vigorous. Maybe punch a punching bag instead of a wall or yourself.

Uh, you can. Jumped vigorously on a trampoline or, you know, go for a really intense run or find something else to do that’s very intense, that isn’t harmful, that’ll still let you burn out all that energy. Maybe it’s like thrashing around heavy metal music, you know? What is it for you? What is going to help you get that feeling out or what is going to help the autistic person and get that extra energy out?

Just drop my notebook. I forgot. Um. But you know, autistic people stim for a reason and there are benefits to stimming. Um, like I said, if we intentionally seek out, stimming to help us ground, uh, when we feel like the world is going a bit too fast around us, or we are feeling overwhelmed, uh, and it can help us slow down and hone in on one thing.

Instead of when all of the details and everything else around us is too much, we’re going to just stim and just focus on the stim and everything is a bit okay for a minute until we have time to come back, you know, to get over what we’re feeling at the moment. Uh, and. There are problems if you ask an autistic person to hold in their stimming.

Um, and this is easier for some autistic people than others. You know, every autistic person is different. We all have our own unique, uh, experience. Um, but for me, you know, when I hold in my stims, I can do so it requires mental energy because I am thinking about. Being still, so it’s like be still be still be still be still.

It’s always in the back of my mind. So there’s some energy burning there and I am also tensing my body and creating tension in my body because in order to not move around, I have to hold myself tight and hard and my body will be still, but at the end of a few hours sitting that way. When I go to move, I am in so much pain because there is so much tension everywhere from just holding myself tense from being still, um, or you know, with my mouth.

Like I would clench my jaw and it would give me headaches and too, thanks. Um, so. There are consequences for holding that in. Um, it feels a bit like holding your breath. You know, you, you just eventually you need to move again. Eventually you’re going to have to breathe. Um, and it’s ironic because, you know, when I was in school and I was a kid and I would have trouble being still did, teachers always would take away recess.

Which was actually what I needed. I needed to go outside and move around more. I wasn’t moving around enough and to punish me for not being regulated and not having enough time to go out and move, they would take my, my recess away so I couldn’t go outside and move, making things worse. Oh my goodness.

You know, it doesn’t make any sense. And so you learn actually to hide your stims, uh, because you know, maybe teachers. Didn’t want you stimming in class because it was disruptive. That’s how it was when I was growing up. I had a teacher actually tied my legs to a chair once. Um, but a lot of autistic people, you know, we hide our stims for safety.

It is autistic masking, which is a whole nother video in itself. And I’ll link an old video to autistic masking, uh, so you can find it and maybe we’ll update this topic soon. Um. But it’s when an autistic person intentionally or unintentionally hides their autistic traits, uh, often that is their stims and.

It’s not intended to be a deceptive behavior. It’s a self defense mechanism that autistic people, they’ve learned often to hide because of bullies or someone’s picked on them and told them that, you know, that behavior is not acceptable. Whatever the behavior is. And it is really, like I said, masking is just huge.

Um. Topic. And if you would like for me to do a refresh or an update video talking about masking, um, hit the like button and let me know. So I know you’re interested and I will jump on a revamp of the topic of autistic masking. Stimming is something, you know, like I said, all autistic people have a very different experience of it.

Autistic people will have very different experience with masking as well. Someone to Sue people. Can mask. Some autistic people don’t or can’t mask. Thank you so much for learning about stimming and learning my autistc perspective today. Um, and if you would like to know more, uh, let me know. Or if this video video was useful or helpful to you.

Cause my goal is to always provide useful, helpful content. Uh, give it a share with someone you think who might find this topic. Interesting. Uh, in conclusion. For many autistic people. Stimming is like breathing. It’s just something that we do naturally. If people let us.




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3 thoughts on “What IS Stimming? – All About Autistic Stimming (with examples & a word about self-harm & stims)

  1. Omg!!! I’ve learned more in 17 minutes than any doctor could explain. Thank you for being courageous and bold in sharing your journey with us! This information will definitely help with my autistic teen. It’s been a challenge watching learn and grow but I want to connect with him and understand him more. Today you’ve given me a piece of that. Thank you Christa!!

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