Psychogenic movement disorders in children

Mov Disord. 2008 Oct 15;23(13):1875-81. doi: 10.1002/mds.22220.


Psychogenic movement disorders (PMDs) are well characterized in adults, but childhood-onset PMDs have not been extensively studied. We reviewed the medical records of children who were diagnosed in our clinic with PMDs since 1988 and identified 54 patients with PMDs, representing 3.1% of our pediatric movement disorder population and 5.7% of all PMD cases. The mean age at symptom onset was 14.2 years (+/-2.11, range 7.6-17.7). Similar to published data in adults, two-thirds of children exhibited multiple PMD phenotypes, the most common being tremor followed by dystonia and myoclonus. Most PMDs were abrupt in onset, paroxysmal and triggered by identifiable physical or psychological trauma. As in adults, childhood PMDs were more likely to affect females, but there was no female predominance in children less than 13 years old. Although prior studies suggest that medically unexplained symptoms beginning in childhood often follow a benign course, this cohort of children experienced marked disability and morbidity related to PMDs, including prolonged school absences and unnecessary surgical procedures in more than one-fifth of patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement Disorders / complications*
  • Movement Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / complications*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Retrospective Studies