What Is the Treatment for Perseveration?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 05 February 2020
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Perseveration treatment requires a careful patient evaluation to learn more about the origins of uncontrolled repetitive behavior to develop treatment recommendations. These can include therapy, medications, and support in settings like the classroom. Patients who experience perseveration can have it to varying degrees and may find a self-assessment helpful. In this assessment, caregivers provide the patient with videos and transcripts of behavior so he understands what is going on.

Uncontrolled repetitive behavior can include repeating words and phrases as well as actions. Patients may get stuck on a particular emotion, topic, or strategy without the ability to move forward. In a simple example, a person tasked with getting a table through a doorway might stubbornly persist in moving it in the same way, instead of turning it, removing the legs, or making other changes in strategy to see if it is possible to solve the problem that way.

Patients can experience perseveration as part of a mental illness like obsessive compulsive disorder, a cognitive disability like autism, or in the wake of a traumatic brain injury. In all cases, it reflects fundamental changes in the wiring of the brain that make it difficult for the patient to complete cognitive tasks. He may also experience other symptoms that contribute to the perseveration and could make it more complicated to treat.


One treatment option is therapy. Patients can go to behavioral therapy as well as psychotherapy to learn more about the origins of the behavior and work on extinguishing it. Friends and family members may help with this by engaging in therapy with the patient. If he gets stuck on a cycle of repetitive questions, for example, family members could say “I don't know” to try and break the patient out of the cycle. Patients may also develop coping strategies to help them manage situations where perseveration occurs, like task switching when they feel themselves getting stuck.

Medications can be an option for some patients. If the problem is rooted with an imbalance in brain chemistry, the patient may be able to break the cycle of behavior with medications. Pharmacological interventions can also address anxiety, depression, and other factors that may play a role in a person's preservation.

Support can also be important. Teachers can model diversion techniques to refocus students who experience perseveration. The same techniques can be helpful in a home setting as well. If a patient becomes obsessed with playing with blocks, for example, parents could redirect her into purposeful play like building models with the blocks or using the blocks in experiments.


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