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Medical What causes some people to want to roll their head

  1. Mar 15, 2011 #1
    Ever since I was a very young child I have rolled my head while laying in bed. I don't roll my head the entire time that I am awake, but I do roll my head a lot.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 15, 2011 #2


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    What do you mean by roll your head? Back and forth, in a circle? And why?
  4. Mar 15, 2011 #3
    When I lay down I have this over whelming feeling to roll my head back forth on the pillow. In my entire life I have only heard of two other people doing this. Sometimes I can roll my head for up to an hour.
  5. Mar 15, 2011 #4
    I don't mean it as some sort of joke, but starting when I was about 3 or 4 I started having symptoms of aspergers. This is also when the head rolling started. I have never been diagnosed with this, but I feel that I might have it.
  6. Mar 15, 2011 #5
    My psychiatrist tested me one time for aspergers, and I had 50% of the traits, but since I have 75% of the traits of schizotypal I am diagnosed with that instead.
  7. Mar 15, 2011 #6
    Hmmm... this sounds like a repetative act typical of anxiety disorders directly or as a comorbidity of another disorder.

    The answer is the same as all compulsions and ritualistic behaviour; it brings a sense of relief of anxiety, generally speaking.

    That said, this is not generally a universal trait, so if it's troubling you I'd strognly consider talking to you psychiatrist. It's possible that you're taking a medication that's causing some stiffness of the neck, but I doubt that.
  8. Mar 15, 2011 #7
    Thanks, I always wondered if it were common or not. I have OCD too, so it would make sense that it is an anxiety ritual.
  9. Mar 15, 2011 #8
    Given that, and the phrase, "overwhelming feeling" would make that a VERY VERY good guess. Obviously there is no diagnosing over the net, but I'd bet money on that.

    As long as it's not a violent motion, your only long term risk might be mild osteoarthritis, and that's inevitable for us all anyway. As anxiety rituals go, that's not bad.
  10. Mar 19, 2011 #9


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    I was browsing and came across you thread, and it struck me funny, as a kid I had a friend, who would turn his head while we we playing from time to time. Sometimes playing catch with a baseball, which was a bit frightening. I think if I remember correctly he had sight and hearing problems on his left side, and used to tilt his head to compensate. As a kid I thought it was just a quirk of his but in retrospect, it masked an underlying health issue. Just a thought, for whatever it is worth. Good luck in trying to pin your situation down.

  11. Mar 19, 2011 #10
    Thanks Rhody. I appreciate your concern.
  12. Mar 19, 2011 #11


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    No problem Forestman,

    I have a bit of OCD as well, so I understand where you are coming from, we all need to come to terms with our strengths and weaknesses and sometimes if possible turn those weaknesses into a potential source of strength.

    Rhody... :smile:
  13. Mar 19, 2011 #12
    Not to minimize what might be a real symptom, but many normal people have little quirks that few people know about. They can be tiny compulsive behaviors that are completely benign.
  14. Feb 28, 2013 #13
    Hahhah Great man !

    I finally found someone who does the same thing as I do.
    When I was a kid I was rolling my head exact way as you described.I started to do it when I was 5-6 years old and I do it even now sometimes,but rarely.
    I tried to find out what might be the cause for this,but never got the answer.

    Until fifth year of my life I had a swing in my garden and I was swinging for whole day on it and that movement gave me over whelming feeling always.
    When I turned 6 there was a civil war in my country (ex Yugoslavia) and I had to leave the home and the swing too : )
    After that I started to roll my head in the bed and that gave me same feeling even more intense than swinging.Later I discovered that adding some cool music to it makes me feel even better.I could do it for hours as you also said and I did it for years like that.
    While I was getting older I started to do it less often and for shorter periods of time (it was daily for a hour or two when I was a kid) and when I turned 20 I stopped to do it almost totally.I am 27 years old now and sometimes I do it.It helps me to relax and to clear my mind.I also like to dance to the music in clubs so I think it might be related to the buzz people get from dancing.I never did it without music.
    I really don't know why it causes that cool feeling for me,but I was addicted to it earlier.

    Just to mention I do not have any psychological illness and I never had any.I think it might have to do something with the pleasure people get from dancing or riding a roller coaster,because I get the same feeling in my stomach as the one I get while on roller coaster.

    it would be very interesting for me if someone can explain why does it give me that cool feeling while doing it.
  15. Apr 12, 2013 #14
    My granddaughter does something similar, but is not ocd. With her it seems to be a proprioceptive disorder, where she does this to get the feeling and sensation - she is sensory weak. Her brother does something similar. If you engage either of them in conversation it immediately stops. They seem happy when doing it. Used to worry me.
  16. Apr 19, 2014 #15
    I rolled my head as a child, from side to side. Generally I did it to get myself to sleep, and the feeling of pleasure that I got from it was enhanced by listening to music, and as a 49 old I still find it comforting. My theory is linked to nicotine. My mother was a smoker and smoked throughout her pregnancy carrying me. I was also once a smoker and during this period of around 20 years, the head rolling stopped. Since giving up 13 years ago it returned. I wonder if the head rolling is to stimulate the feeling that is absent from the lack of nicotine ?
  17. Mar 13, 2016 #16
    I have been rolling my head back and forth along with my body since birth, I wished that I knew what may cause to why I do this, I still do this til this day. And with music , it truly relaxes me in a way I cant explain. I can do this for hours until I fall asleep.
    I have been searching for some answers... I found none! I want to know why I do this? I am glad that I am not alone., I felt like I was weird or strange in a sense that rolling your head was not normal. I do know what it is called: Rhythmic Movement Disorder.
    You can read it here at this link, I hope this might help to some of you that are searching for answers. I for one have read it and I just dont know what to make of it. I pray that someone answers back so I can get some answers.
    Thanks in advance! :biggrin:
    here is the link
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 13, 2016
  18. Mar 13, 2016 #17


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    I did this exact thing as a kid before I either grew out of it or stopped myself from doing. But I still have to move my leg, even when lying down to sleep.

    I don't think that's the name of this disorder. The article says that RMD involves involuntary muscle movements, not voluntary.
  19. Mar 21, 2016 #18
    Perhaps not.. But its the closest thing I can come up to as finding the closest thing that I found to what I have been searching for years. :/ I wished I knew what it was called or the fact why I do it, I am just glad that I am not alone.
  20. Mar 21, 2016 #19


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    Indeed. If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that no matter how odd, weird, or different you think you are, there are almost certainly THOUSANDS of people, if not more, just as odd, weird, or different as you are.
  21. Mar 21, 2016 #20
    Thank you.. I needed to hear that, not that it makes me feel better but , yeah.... I am just glad that I am not alone in this and that I was able to find this site , hear their testimonies , share their stories, make me feel I am part of this world too, no matter how odd, weird, indifferent I feel :smile:
  22. Mar 22, 2016 #21
    I hope there is someone out there can closed in this chapter so I can know for sure what is it that I have and why I do it as I am sure those who have similars experience I am going through. That would be great... its been too long not having a name, then again, perhaps its a good thing.
    I found this site. you can read and see what you all think??
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2016
  23. Mar 22, 2016 #22
    I'll roll my head sometimes to try and get rid of the pain from arthritis. Usually makes it worse but I'll still do it. What you have is probably a OCD/Tourette's thing going on. However, you might look into Dystonia - the moving disease.
    I think that if that's your worst problem your just fine. Like it's been said above, no one is unique. And if it makes you feel comfortable to put a label on it, these days there's a name for every and any medical/psychological condition or behaviour. Enjoy your life and I'm glad you escaped Yugoslavia with your health and your happiness intact.
  24. Mar 22, 2016 #23
    Hello Ebos, if that was directly at me, thanks for replying. I dont think its Dystonia, I had this since birth , I look it up what it meant, none of that applies to me, but I am sure there is a name for it, even if there wasn't, would be nice to know what that name is, even if there isn't a name for it, I am just happy that I am not alone and that there are actually people out there that go through the same as me.
    Speaking of enjoying my life... let's just say ...coming from a dysfunctional family, I can honesty say... there are worst things people have to go through. I am not in harm's way but I do feel those who go through traumatic stress and live every day in fear. That is no way to live.
    But in the meantime.. happiness is what you make of it. You have to find your happy place you know. I pray you have found yours.
    shlm. :)
  25. May 15, 2016 #24
    Hi everybody! I've been rolling my head to fall asleep it from the crib right up to today.

    When I was still a baby, my mother used to be very anxious about me doing it, fearing some obscure neurological condition, so she consulted with several pediatricians. As it was obviously too soon for me to confirm that the head-rolling was voluntary, some doctors suggested invasive pharmaceutical treatment. She finally consulted a sleep specialist that went to this admirably simple workflow with her:

    1. Does it help him sleep? (yes)
    2. Does he seem to enjoy it? (yes)

    The clever doc said something like: “Well, then, let the poor child be, for God's sake”, so my mom chilled out about it, and I turned out perfectly fine. I'm a 24-year-old male with good social skills (no autistic/Asperger-like condition). Throughout my teenage years, I had to learn to fall asleep without doing it (e.g. when I had friends over at home, or when I started having a girlfriend), but I still enjoy doing it when I'm alone. It makes me feel the "rollercoaster" effect other people in this thread have mentioned, helps me let go of uneasy thoughts and fall asleep quickly. I rarely "stop" doing it voluntarily, rather falling asleep directly in the process.

    Moral of the story: people have some very unique habits and pretty much anybody does something special that people are quick to diagnose as a super obscure neuro-mental-social-linguistico-autistic condition, but this particular thing is probably a remnant of the soothing movements from your time in the womb, when every micro-movement of your mom would “rock” you in the amniotic fluid. It is also the reason why the head-rolling is so common in babies at the age where they are forced to figure out techniques for falling asleep without their mom's help.

    Why shouldn't people be allowed to rock themselves to sleep once in a while?

    PS: this thread is cool http://isitnormal.com/story/i-rock-myself-to-sleep-every-night-32460/
  26. May 17, 2016 #25
    Hi Chris and welcome...
    Glad to have you here with us and share your story. I honesty thought I was alone in this, I had to look around on websites to see if there was actually anyone that had this problem.. Which I wouldn't call it a "problem", but you know what I mean, right? :) Are we all glad that we fond others that understand ....
    Thanks everyone for making me feel like I am not alone. ROCK- and ROLL On!
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