In detail

Disorder of stereotyped movements in childhood

Disorder of stereotyped movements in childhood

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The Stereotyped movement disorder It is a motor disorder that develops in childhood and includes repetitive movements without purpose. Some of these stereotyped movements can be shaking hands, balancing the body and hitting the head. The diagnosis is only granted if repetitive movement causes distress in the child and causes impairment in daily functioning.


  • 1 Main features
  • 2 Associated Disorders
  • 3 Prevalence of the disorder
  • 4 Start and Course
  • 5 Differential Diagnosis

Main features

As we have said, this disorder is characterized by the presence of Repetitive movements, which have no specific function, are usually rhythmic. Among the movements we can distinguish those that are self-injurious type of those who are not. Among the most frequent of the non-self-injurious movements are the body or head sway, dawned movements of the fingers or / and the hands. Among the self-injurious are the headers, slaps, biting hands or hitting with intensity.

Associated disorders

It is frequently associated with Cognitive Deficit and in this case it must be of sufficient importance to require a proper diagnosis. Also appears associated with severe sensory deficits and it may be more frequent in institutional settings when receiving insufficient stimulation. There may be complications such as social isolation if the habit is unpleasant for others (stool manipulation, introduction of the fingers in the anus or nose, etc.). It is associated in cases of self-injurious movements to chronic skin lesions, corns, etc. which can lead to visual disturbances, hole fissures or plugging by the introduction of objects into body holes, etc. in the most serious cases.

Prevalence of the disorder

In subjects with Cognitive Deficit it varies from 2% to 3% in children and adolescents, and around 25% in adults with Severe or Deep Cognitive Deficit. It seems that headers are more frequent in males in a proportion of 3/1 and self-bites are in women.

Start and Course

There is no starting pattern. The course usually presents greater virulence in adolescence and from that moment they tend to decrease gradually, although in subjects with Mental Retardation they can last for years.

Differential Diagnosis

It is not diagnosed if there is a Generalized Developmental Disorder. Compulsions of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are more complex and ritualistic.

It differs from the Tics because they are less voluntary and not rhythmic. Trichotillomania is distinguished by limiting it exclusively to tearing off the hair. The uniqueness of self-mutilation in psychotic disorders is established because it is premeditated and has a meaning for the subject. Self-stimulating movements in young children and individuals with sensory deficits are distinguished because they do not usually cause dysfunctions or self-harm.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

US National Library of Medicine UU., Medline Plus