Arthritis is inflammation of the joints, leading to pain and difficulty moving the joint. There are many different types of arthritis that can affect children. These conditions may also be called juvenile arthritis.…
What is headbanging?
Headbanging is where infants and young children repeatedly bang their head against something in a rhythmic motion. It is surprisingly common in infants, with around 15% of infants aged 9-18 months and about 9% of two-year olds exhibiting headbanging behavior.  Headbanging is common in boys and girls and is generally temporary and harmless, but can last into childhood for some people. Headbanging can also occur during tantrums, or in people with certain medical conditions including sleepwalking, autism or Tourette syndrome.
The exact cause of headbanging is unknown, but there are some reasons why your child may be banging their head. These can include:
- Self-comfort - strangely enough, children bang their head rhythmically to soothe themselves and fall asleep, or if they have woken up during the night;
- Pain relief - toddlers may bang their head to distract themselves from pain, for example, while teething, and;
- Frustration or attention - toddlers vent frustration through headbanging, or use headbanging as attention-seeking behavior.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of headbanging include the rhythmic banging of one's head against various objects. For infants, this is commonly a pillow, bed, or bedhead and occurs at bedtime or nap time. In other instances, a wall, door or table are sometimes used. Headbanging can involve banging either the front or back of the head every few seconds and can last for around 15 minutes.
Methods for diagnosis
Headbanging can be diagnosed by your doctor after an explanation of your child's signs and symptoms.
Types of treatment
In most cases, treatment is not required and children will grow out of the behavior.
Headbanging behavior is generally considered a disorder if there is significant sleep disruption, or if it results in injury. Management techniques can include ensuring that their cot or bed is secure and stable, with ample padding or pillows and, if required, a guard rail.
Keeping a diary of when and for how long your child has headbanging behavior, can help identify the reason your child is headbanging. If you have established that headbanging behavior is attention-seeking related, it is important to avoid giving in to your child, as this can reinforce headbanging behavior. If you have noticed that headbanging is being performed as a pain-relief method for an underlying medical condition - for example, an ear infection - it is important to seek appropriate medical care from your doctor.
If your child has headbanging behavior that causes them to injure themselves, or puts them at risk of injuring themselves - for example, during sleepwalking - protective headwear may be worn.
In most cases there are no long-term complications of headbanging behavior. It is possible for some children to harm themselves from headbanging against hard objects. If this occurs, it is important to consult your doctor and seek medical treatment.
Headbanging in toddlers is a relatively harmless and temporary condition that can occur in the first few years of life. However, in cases where headbanging persists into childhood, it can be an indicator of a developmental disorder, such as autism.
There are no specific prevention techniques for headbanging in toddlers.
- Kurtz, P.F., Chin, M.D., Huete, J.M., et al. (2003) Functional analysis and treatment of self-injurious behavior in young children a summary of 30 cases. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 36:205–19.
- “Common Behavioural Problems in Children | Doctor | Patient.co.uk.” Accessed October 8 2014. http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/common-behavioural-problems-in-children.
- “Headbanging | BabyCenter.” Accessed October 8 2014. http://www.babycenter.com/0_head-banging_11554.bc.
- “Headbanging and Body Rocking Rhythmic Moving Disorder.” Accessed October 8 2014. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_sleep_in_your_babys_first_year/hic_head_banging_and_body_rocking.
- Kurtz Patricia F Michelle D Chin John M Huete Rachel S F Tarbox Julia T O’Connor Theodosia R Paclawskyj and Karena S Rush. “Functional Analysis and Treatment of Self-Injurious Behavior in Young Children a Summary of 30 Cases.” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 36 no. 2 (2003): 205–19. doi:10.1901/jaba.2003.36-205.
- “Nonepileptic Paroxysmal Disorders in Children.” Accessed October 8 2014. http://www.uptodate.com/contents/nonepileptic-paroxysmal-disorders-in-children?source=search_result&search=head+banging&selectedTitle=3%7E13.
- “Tantrums | Better Health Channel.” Accessed October 8 2014. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcArticles.nsf/pages/Tantrums?open.
- “Tourette’s Syndrome | Health | Patient.co.uk.” Accessed October 8 2014. http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Tourette’s-Syndrome.htm.
FAQ Frequently asked questions
What is headbanging?
Headbanging is the action of banging one's head against something in a rhythmic motion. It is common in boys and girls and is generally temporary and harmless, but can last into childhood for some people.
What are the symptoms of headbanging?
Signs and symptoms of headbanging include the rhythmic banging of one's head against various objects. For toddlers this is commonly a pillow, bed, or bedhead and occurs at bedtime or nap time. In other instances, a wall, door or table are sometimes …
What causes headbanging?
The exact cause of headbanging in toddlers is unknown, but there are some reasons that your toddler may be banging their head. These can include self-comfort, pain relief, frustration or to seek attention.
How common is headbanging?
Headbanging is surprisingly common in infants, with around 15% of infants aged 9 to 18 months and about 9% of two-year olds exhibiting headbanging behavior.
How is headbanging diagnosed?
Headbanging can be diagnosed by your doctor after an explanation of your child's signs and symptoms. It may help to keep a diary of when and for how long headbanging episodes occur to present to your doctor. Headbanging behavior is generally only considered a …
How is headbanging treated?
In most cases of headbanging behavior in toddlers, no treatment and only management and monitoring are required. This is because most children will grow out of the behavior. If your child has headbanging behavior that causes them to injure themselves or puts …