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.