What is Psychomotor Retardation?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 07 July 2019
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Psychomotor retardation, also known as psychomotor impairment, is a symptom of some psychological disorders that involve a general reduction in the speed of thought and difficulty or slowness in movement and speech. There are a few different mental disorders that can cause impairment in motor skills; such symptoms are common in cases of severe depression and bipolar disorder. Though it can be caused purely by mental factors, it is also thought to be associated with some physical conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, as well as some medications, particularly psychiatric medications when taken in improper doses.

Psychomotor retardation can present itself in many forms, varying from a general slowing of movement to difficulty in speaking coherently. It often presents itself simply as difficulty in becoming motivated, a trait characteristic of those who suffer from depression. Simple tasks, such as showering or even getting out of bed in the morning may seem extraordinarily difficult. In other cases, this deficiency presents itself in a form that resembles physical motor impairment. One may find that it is suddenly very difficult to lift relatively lightweight objects, such as dishes or books, or that walking up a slope has become much more challenging than it ever was in the past.


Sometimes, psychomotor retardation affects mental rather than physical processes, but the effect is generally the same: activities that were once simple become difficult for no apparent reason. Basic arithmetic, such as that used to pay for items at the store, may suddenly become confusing or challenging. Other mental tasks, such as finding directions on a map or planning one's schedule, may also become inexplicably difficult.

In some cases, the challenges associated with psychomotor retardation are related to distance. Individuals may be able to function relatively normally if they do not need to leave their house or their room. This tends to cause difficulties, as most people need to leave their houses from time to time for work, class, shopping, or transporting children.

Treating psychomotor retardation is generally linked with treating its underlying cause, which is usually severe depression or bipolar disorder. Treatment sometimes involves therapy; individuals who meet with therapists on a regular basis can sometimes progress beyond their illnesses and lead mentally healthy lives. In other cases, the nature of the disorder necessitates medication. Medication tends to stabilize people's moods and free them from the symptoms of their illnesses, but often come with a risk of dependence or other unpleasant side effects. If medication or improper dosing is causing the problem, changing to a different drug or adjusting the dosage under the supervision of a doctor can be helpful.


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Post 10

I have been doctoring for a few years and was misdiagnosed with Parkinson's. My fine motor skills in my hands have been severely impaired (and have gotten worse on follow up tests.) It now appears I may have bipolar disorder (or secondary bipolar due to neurological damage.)

The peg board test is what they used to determine my level of impairment in motor skills.

Post 9

I have been having problems figuring things out lately. I look at things and I cannot subtract two numbers (two digit numbers).

As a child I didn't speak until I was four years old. I recently got tested and the psychological cognition neurologist said I have psychomotor slowing. What do I do now?

Post 8

To answer Wander's question in Post no. 3: If the patient is seeing a psychiatrist and therapist on a regular basis, the problem becomes obvious to those treating the patient. The patient can even become completely disoriented at times in familiar places, just like an Alzheimer's patient if it is allowed to continue without treatment.

Post 5

My husband had a stroke this week and he is 47 years old. I have since had trouble speaking clearly, mixing up my words, unable to think of words periodically etc. It is most frustrating to suffer from the same symptoms my husband is having post-stroke! Sometimes the root problem can be stress such as this, according to my psychologist.

Post 4

I am pyschomotor retarded from bipolar disorder.

Post 3

As psychomotor retardation are physical symptoms brought on by a psychological disorder, how do doctors test for the root problems?

I read that in some cases they ask the person to draw pictures, as this can be an excellent way to see if their brain process is slowed, but are there also other methods?

Post 2

If you suspect someone is suffering from psychomotor retardation and are worried they may have severe depression or be bipolar what is the best way to help them get treatment?

It is a very sensitive topic, so would it be best to confront them personally with your concerns, or speak to their close family members and ask them to make sure the person sees a doctor?

I am worried that the person will be offended and further shy away from help.

Post 1

Psychomotor retardation is actually one of the nine telling symptoms associated with major depressive disorder and it can help a doctor to rule out other causes.

Beside things like speech issues and difficulty doing normal tasks, the people suffering from this also have trouble maintaining eye contact and will present themselves with a slumped posture when they normally sit up straight.

As this condition is purely a physical symptom of a mental problem one really needs to treat the root issues so that the person can live a happy, healthy life again.

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