How to identify psychogenic disorders of stance and gait. A video study in 37 patients

J Neurol. 1991 Jun;238(3):140-6. doi: 10.1007/BF00319680.


Thirty-seven patients with psychogenic disorders of stance and gait were clinically evaluated, recorded on video, and analysed with regard to clinical phenomenology. Characteristic, suggestive and unspecific features were identified. Six characteristic features proved most valuable for diagnosis of psychogenesis, as they occurred alone or in combination in 97% of patients: (1) momentary fluctuations of stance and gait, often in response to suggestion; (2) excessive slowness or hesitation of locomotion incompatible with neurological disease; (3) "psychogenic" Romberg test with a build-up of sway amplitudes after a silent latency or with improvement by distraction; (4) uneconomic postures with wastage of muscular energy; (5) the "walking on ice" gait pattern, which is characterized by small cautious steps with fixed ankle joints; (6) sudden buckling of the knees, usually without falls. Seventy-three percent of patients had additional suggestive features. Classification into characteristic subtypes was not found useful because predominant features varied from patient to patient and occurred in various combinations. Factitious impairment of stance and gait was studied in 13 healthy drama students. Simulated gait dysfunction appeared less conspicuous and more difficult to diagnose than the clinical psychogenic disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Factitious Disorders / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Gait*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Movement Disorders / psychology*
  • Muscles / innervation
  • Posture*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Video Recording