What is psychomotor impairment?

The term “psychomotor” refers to the connections made between mental and muscle functions. Psychomotor impairment occurs when there’s a disruption with these connections. It affects the way you move, talk, and other regular activities.

Psychomotor impairment is technically the opposite of psychomotor agitation, restless symptoms, such as skin picking or pacing around the room, that are caused by what may be described as mental tension.

However, both psychomotor impairment and agitation may occur within the same underlying cause. If you suspect you have either of these conditions, see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

The symptoms of psychomotor impairment may vary between individuals. Also, children and adults may experience different symptoms.

These impairments can cause issues with muscle function and speech, which can then lead to problems with everyday tasks, such as:

  • brushing teeth
  • getting dressed
  • cooking and eating
  • taking a shower
  • chores
  • socializing
  • daily communication skills

You may find that the impairments can affect your job and hobbies, too. For example, grabbing objects or walking may prove difficult. Walking upstairs might be impossible.

Adult tasks that are often viewed as “normal,” might be challenging, too. These include shopping, house upkeep, and money management.

Children with psychomotor impairments may display difficulties with:

  • walking
  • playing with toys
  • talking
  • grabbing objects
  • feeding

Psychomotor impairment is a symptom of a number of causes. These include:

  • genetic disorders
  • neurological disorders
  • certain chronic illnesses
  • hormonal imbalances
  • mental health disorders

Some of the most common causes of psychomotor impairment include:

In some cases, psychomotor impairment develops as a side effect from medications. This appears to be most common with mental health medications, such as:

  • benzodiazepines for anxiety (clonazepam)
  • stimulants for ADHD (amphetamine)
  • typical/neuroleptic antipsychotics (Chlorpromazine)
  • atypical antipsychotics (Lurasidone)

At your appointment, your doctor will conduct a physical exam and ask about your medical history. Tell your doctor about all your symptoms, including when they first started.

If your doctor suspects neurological or genetic disorders, they may order other tests. These include imaging tests of the brain (MRI, ultrasound, CT scan). You’ll also likely be referred to a neurologist.

Your doctor may also order a blood test. If your doctor suspects a thyroid disorder, blood tests are necessary to measure related hormones in the body. You must fast before these tests so you’ll get an accurate result.

A suspected mental health disability may warrant the help of a psychiatrist. They can help prescribe medications when necessary. Behavioral therapy is another option.

Psychomotor impairment treatments are based on severity as well as on the underlying causes. If medication is available for your condition, then these types of treatments can help prevent symptoms like psychomotor impairments:

  • Medications for Parkinson’s disease focus on elevating dopamine levels in the brain.
  • Hypothyroidism may be treated with thyroid hormone replacements.
  • Symptoms from mental health disabilities may benefit from psychiatric drugs, such as antidepressants or antipsychotics.

On the flip side, if your medication is found to be causing these symptoms, then your doctor might recommend a different prescription. (Never stop taking a medication on your own!)

Rehabilitative therapies can also provide benefits for anyone with psychomotor impairment:

  • physical therapy for muscle movement and overall strength
  • occupational therapy for motor skills needed to accomplish everyday tasks
  • speech therapy for difficulties eating and talking

Psychomotor impairment caused by medications may be acute (short term), while undertreated diseases may cause more chronic (long-term) symptoms. Impairments from neurological or genetic diseases may be more permanent, but manageable, with treatment and therapies.

Some disorders, such as Parkinson’s, can’t be cured. However, treatment for your symptoms can go a long way in controlling related psychomotor impairments.