Disorder Information Sheet Mental Health Information from PsychNet-UK
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Stereotypic Movement Disorder

The child's motor behavior seems driven, repetitive and nonfunctional. Examples include biting or hitting self, body rocking, hand shaking or waving, head banging, mouthing of objects, picking at skin or body openings.

This behavior seriously interferes with normal activities or causes physical injury that requires medical treatment. Main characteristics are:

If the patient also has Mental Retardation, the stereotypic behavior is serious enough to be a focus of treatment. The behavior is not better explained by a compulsion (as in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), a tic (Tic Disorder), hair pulling (Trichotillomania) or a Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

It is not directly caused by a general medical condition or the effects of substance use.

The behavior has persisted for at least 4 weeks.

Specify if With Self-Injurious Behavior. The behavior causes bodily injury that requires medical treatment  (or would, if the child were not interfered with).

Associated Features:

None identified

Differential Diagnosis:

Some disorders have similar or even the same symptoms. The clinician, therefore, in his/her diagnostic attempt has to differentiate against the following disorders which need to be ruled out to establish a precise diagnosis.

Cerebral Palsy
Delayed-onset Movement Disorder.
Mild Neuromotor Disabilities.
Learning Disabilities.
Drug-induced Movement Disorder.
Rett Syndrome.


The causes of this disorder are unknown. The movements appear to increase with stress , frustration and boredom. Stereotypic movement disorder is more common among boys.


Treatment should be centered around the symptom, cause, and child's age. The environment should be changed for those children that are self-injurious to make sure they are safe.

Counseling and Psychotherapy [ See Therapy Section ]:

Behavioral techniques and psychotherapy have been the most successful treatment modalities.

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Page Updated
22nd July 2003