Psychomotor disorders: types, characteristics and symptoms

Movement is part of human behavior and accompanies the actions we take when expressing wants, needs, etc., as well as when communicating or interacting with others. When this is changed in one way or another, so-called psychomotor disorders appear.

In this article we will know the main psychomotor disorders, As well as its most characteristic symptoms. In addition, we will talk about what psychomotor skills mean.

    psychomotor activity

    Psychomotor skills involve the performance of the person in interaction with cognitive and affective experiences, and it includes two elements: muscle tone and kinetic harmony.

    Muscle tone changes throughout life, although it is in the first few months of life that it is most important that changes occur more quickly. For its part, kinetic harmony is what makes it possible to chain gestural or motor movements and to locate them in time and space.

    What are psychomotor disorders?

    Psychomotor disorders they involve the alteration or psychopathology of psychomotor skills. In other words, they involve abnormalities, deficits or alterations in movement.

    These alterations result in neurological development difficulties, which affect the person’s perceptual-motor adaptation.


      The main psychomotor disorders (and their symptoms) are:

      1. Psychomotor agitation

      It is the most common psychomotor disorder. It is a type of motor hyperactivity, in which the person emits gestures, movements and behaviors quickly and successively and without a specific goal.

      2. Stupor

      Stupor involves psychomotor inhibition or retardation and is characterized by a state of consciousness in which the absence (akinesia) or reduction (hypokinesia) of movement and reactions predominates.

      The person remains indifferent, foreign or distant from the environment that surrounds him. Moreover, there an absence of relational functions and an absolute paralysis of the body. Mutism is also often associated (the person does not speak).

      3. Tremors

      The tremors are oscillating muscle movements, around a fixed point on the body, in the form of involuntary jerks, Rhythmic and fast. The shocks that occur are caused by alternating contractions of the muscle groups.

      They mainly appear on the head, face, tongue and limbs (especially the upper ones). These psychomotor disorders are rarer in the trunk. They can be of three types: resting, postural and intentional.

      4. Seizures

      These are muscle movements in the form of violent and uncontrollable contractions of the voluntary muscles. They manifest in one or more muscle groups or widely throughout the body.

      They may be associated with certain diseases linked to toxic infectious conditions with brain damage. Also, and above all, in epilepsy.

        5. Tics

        Tics are local, rapid, spasmodic muscle movements they manifest themselves involuntarily, in isolation, unexpectedly, repetitively, frequently, Aimless and at irregular intervals. They occur in one or more parts of the body; they rarely affect the lower shoulder muscles.

        The most common tics are: winking, stretching the neck, moving the head to one side, frowning, twisting the corners of the lips, and blinking.

        They affect men more than women and frequently appear for the first time in childhood (around the age of 7). A well-known psychomotor disorder with tics is Gilles de Tourette’s disorder.

        6. Spasms

        These are involuntary, exaggerated and persistent muscle contractions located in the voluntary muscles and in the muscle fibers of internal organs. A specific and common type of spasm is torticular spasm, which consists of a rotating motion of the head to one side.

        we can differentiate different types of spasms: professionals, Bamberger riders and Salaam riders.

        7. Catatonia

        It is a syndrome that encompasses a number of symptoms: catalepsy, negativity, stupor, mutism, muscle stiffness, stereotypes and ecosystems.

        The person with catatonia shows a still attitude and keeps the muscles rigid; thus, it is possible to place the individual in a forced, uncomfortable or anti-gravity position and for him to remain in the same position without seeking to regain the original position for an indefinite time (this is called the cereal flexibility).

        8. Stereotypes

        Continuing the psychomotor disorders, the eighth are the stereotypes, that is to say the continuous and unnecessary repetition of movements or gestures which, unlike tics, they are organized and usually complex.

        They usually appear in the mime of the face or the general body. They are typical of disorders such as autism or schizophrenia. But it is necessary to differentiate between two types: simple (they appear in organic disorders of the brain) and complex (they are observed in nonorganic psychotic disorders).

        9. Mannerisms

        The mannerisms are movements called “parasites”, that is to say what they do is increase the expressiveness of gestures and mime. They mainly appear in psychopathological images similar to those generated by stereotypes (especially in psychotic disorders).

        Examples of mannerisms are unmotivated or meaningless smiles as well as forced postures.

        10. Dyskinesias

        Fill involuntary movements of the tongue, mouth and face. There are two types: acute and late. Mildew is caused by the side effects of certain antipsychotics.

        11. Apraxias

        The last of the psychomotor disorders, apraxia, involves the difficulty of performing propositional activities that require the orderly sequencing and coordination of a series of movements (such as dressing, sending a letter, etc.).

        This is explained by difficulty performing activities that require a certain level of psychomotor complexity. Apraxia in children is called ‘progressive dyspraxia’.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Albaret, JM (2002). Psychomotor disorders in children. Medico-surgical encyclopedia – E – 37-201-F-10.
        • American Psychiatric Association -APA- (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
        • Belloch, A .; Sandín, by Ramos, F. (2010). Manual of psychopathology. Volumes I and II. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.

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