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Head Banging

What Causes Head Banging?

Children who are emotionally and physically healthy, as well as children with developmental or sensory issues, may head bang. It is thought that head banging is a self-soothing process that children partake in, much like thumb sucking or an attachment to a blanket or toy. Children that bang their heads have at some point found the rocking or rhythmic sensations calming, and an aid to sleep. Alternatively, some children appear to bang their heads in an attempt to stimulate themselves or to bring pleasure. However, head banging may occur in combination with temper tantrums. While this may appear as if the child is trying to hurt himself or herself, it is usually the child’s way of trying to relieve stress.

Kids who are under-stimulated (those who are blind, deaf, bored, or lonely) head bang for stimulation. Children who are over stimulated (in an overwhelming environment) find the rhythmic movements of head banging soothing.

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Head banging may be a symptom of autism, tourette syndrome and seizure disorders.

When Head Banging Is an Underlying Symptom

You should take your child to the pediatrician immediately if he or she is engaging in head banging for a long period of time and seems unaware of their surroundings. If head banging is the only way a child can be soothed, or if they are unresponsive to attempts by you to interact with them, you should seek out medical attention.

Children who bang their heads excessively and cause themselves harm may have a developmental disability. These children may have to take medication or wear a helmet to protect themselves from injury.

Older children who bang their heads may need the attention of a psychologist. A psychologist can help the child find the source of their stress and teach them ways to cope.

When to See the Pediatrician

Medical attention is usually not necessary in regards to head banging. However, you should make sure your child’s pediatrician is aware of the behavior. Unless the head banging is excessive or causing bumps or bruising, most pediatricians will advise parents to leave the child alone and to not interfere with head banging. Most children outgrow this behavior in a few months.

How do you prevent head injury?

Typically, healthy toddlers don't seriously injure themselves while banging their head. Pain prevents them from banging too hard. Also, children under 3 don't generate enough force to cause brain damage or neurological problems. The front or front/side of the head is the most frequently struck. A toddler’s head is built to take all of the minor head trauma that is a normal part of learning to walk and climb. Healthy infants and toddlers who are head-bangers usually grow up to be coordinated and completely normal children.

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