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Stereotypic Movement Disorder

What is Stereotypic Movement Disorder?

Stereotypic Movement Disorder is classified under Motor Disorders in the DSM-V. Individuals who have such disorder tend to have repetitive, purposeless movement. For example, an individual may repetitively hand wave or bang their head. However, a diagnosis is only given if such behaviors affect the individual daily functioning. It is important to note that such disorder tends to develop in childhood and that it is more common among boys than it is among girls.

What are the symptoms of Stereotypic Movement Disorder?

An individual appears to show the following stereotypic movements (repetitive and purposeless movement):

  • Nail biting
  • Thumb sucking
  • Face slapping
  • Head nodding
  • Hand shaking
  • Hand waving
  • Self-hitting
  • Skin picking
  • Flicking fingers in front of the individual face

It is important to note that the symptoms will vary in severity as follows:

  • Mild
    • The symptoms are easily suppressed by a distraction for example
  • Moderate
    • The symptoms necessitate explicit protective measures and/or behavioral modification
  • Severe
    • Continuous monitoring is required to prevent a serious injury

What causes Stereotypic Movement Disorder?

Although experts have not determined the exact known cause, social isolation, environmental stress, and genetics may play a role in the development. In addition, boredom, stress, excitement, and exhaustion may also be factors that increase the likelihood of developing such disorder in children. Certain physical conditions, head injuries, or drug use have also shown to play a role in the development of Stereotypic Movement Disorder.

How is Stereotypic Movement Disorder treated?

  • Psychotherapy
    • May help an individual reduce their repetitive movements
  • Medication
    • Naltrexone
    • Clomipramine
    • Selective Serotine Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) (i.e. sertraline and fluvoxamine)
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Self-monitoring
  • Behavioral Therapy
    • Differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviors
      • Helps reduce social inappropriate behaviors
    • Functional Communication Training
      • Teaches and rewards the individual for using alternative responses or strategies that replace the movements

How can someone with Stereotypic Movement Disorder cope with such disorder?

  • Educate themselves on the subject
  • Attend therapies and take prescribed medications as indicated
  • Seek professional support