What Is a Stim Toy? How Do They Soothe DID Symptoms?

February 11, 2020 Krystle Vermes

Stim toys are a way of life for some of us with dissociative identity disorder (DID). If you’re living with a mental health condition such as DID, you might already know how important it is to have stim toys ready and waiting to be used whenever you need to get grounded. How does using stim toys help people with DID, and what is stimming?

What Is a Stim Toy?

A stim toy can be easily defined by what it sounds like: a self-stimulating object. Whether it be a fidget spinner, a cube, or a colorful piece of Silly Putty, a stim toy can help you get grounded and become more present. The process of utilizing a stim toy or object is sometimes referred to as “stimming,” and is often associated with autism spectrum disorder.1

However, it’s important to note that stimming is not exclusive to people with autism or other mental health conditions — everyone stims. Perhaps you bite your nails when you’re nervous, or play with your hair while talking to other people. Maybe you crack your knuckles or chew the tops of pencils or pens while in deep thought. These are all stimming behaviors, but with objects that are not conventional stim toys.

Why Are People Stimming?

There are several theories out there as to why people are stimming. Overstimulation and understimulation are two popular ones, while some people believe that stimming is a way of managing emotions and pain. Think of when a baby sucks its thumb to relax and calm itself — this is an early stimming behavior.

If any of these theories are correct, it’s easy to see why stim toys are commonly used by people with certain mental health conditions, such as DID. I know that on a personal level, stimming helps me re-center myself, re-familiarize myself with my surroundings, and get present. This can be extremely helpful when my personalities are in the midst of several different conversations and creating a lot of “noise.”

It’s also extremely helpful when I’ve been triggered by my environment. Stim toys are made to be just that: stimulating. In the very least, they are distracting — sparkly, colorful, and bright. More often than not, this helps reel me in from a flashback.

Where Can I Get a Stim Toy?

Stim toys can be purchased almost anywhere toys are sold, although the Internet is an endless resource if you’re looking for toys that specifically fall into the “stimming” category. It’s also important to keep in mind that there is no wrong way to stim, just as there is no wrong type of stim toy.

Whether you choose to go with a fidget cube or a rubber bouncy ball, it’s up to you in terms of what you’re using to get grounded.

Have you tried stim toys to cope with DID? What kind? How have stim toys helped you? Share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Wang, K., “Autism and Stimming.” Child Mind Institute, Accessed February 10, 2020.
Tags: stim toy

APA Reference
Vermes, K. (2020, February 11). What Is a Stim Toy? How Do They Soothe DID Symptoms?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Author: Krystle Vermes

Krystle Vermes is a Boston-based freelance writer and editor who is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of mental health. Connect with Krystle on LinkedIn and her website.

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