Psychomotor Retardation

What is Psychomotor Retardation?

Psychomotor skills are abilities that allow synchronized thinking and movement. A medical condition under which individuals experience a combination of the slowing down of thoughts and lesser physical actions is known as psychomotor retardation. Reactions to speech and emotions also become slower.

It is not an illness on its own, yet it can be a symptom of mental illness such as bipolar disorder, clinical depression, etc. It is also called psychomotor impairment or motor mental retardation. Magnetic resonance imaging has shown a connection between the onset of such problems with changes in the brain that occur when a person undergoes depression. This kind of retardation requires specialized mental care and nursing.psychomotor retardation

Causes of Psychomotor Retardation

  • Psychiatric Disorders: The changes in the brain that occur when a person suffers from depression indicate psychomotor retardation. Lack of coordination causes problems in performing day to day activities. It may even reach a catatonic state characterized by little to no movement. People who have schizophrenia or bipolar disorders also show signs of psychomotor retardation.
  • Medications: Medications that treat bipolar disorders often cause psychomotor retardation. These include anti-anxiety and antipsychotic medicines. They are known to contain certain chemicals and other substances that can affect the neurotransmitters in the brain and result in slower thought or physical movement.
  • Psychological Disorders: Eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, etc. are psychological disorders that may cause psychomotor retardation. These conditions do not allow normal body function. They affect the eating, sleeping and social patterns of an individual. Most of the times people having these disorders take medicines to treat it which can also result in this sort of retardation.
  • Parkinson’s disease: It is a neurodegenerative disease that damages the dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. They cause disruptions in the path of serotonergic, adrenergic, frontal and cholinergic dopaminergic pathways. Its impact includes postural imbalance, tremor and rigidity that are common signs associated with psychomotor retardation.

Symptoms of of Psychomotor Retardation

  • Slow and labored movements
  • Sudden difficulty in lifting light weights or climbing uphill
  • Delayed speech
  • Difficulty in performing simple calculations or finding directions on a map
  • Reduced ability to do self-care such as cooking, dressing, etc.
  • Challenges related to distance (people feel comfortable at home but experience problems when they go outdoors)
  • Difficulty in finding motivation to perform mundane activities such as getting out of bed or taking a bath

Risks of of Psychomotor Retardation

Certain conditions may make people more vulnerable to psychomotor retardation:

  • Experiences of distress or despair during childhood
  • Record of depression, alcoholism, bipolar disorder, etc. among members of the family
  • History of eating disorders, health disarrays, etc.
  • Illegal drug & alcohol abuse
  • Serious illnesses such as stroke, cancer, chronic pain or heart disease
  • Intake of medications for high blood pressure or sleeping pills can have adverse impacts
  • Behavioral traits such as low confidence, pessimism, self-criticism, etc.
  • Experience of stressful, traumatic events of death of a dear one, complicated relationships, sexual or physical abuse or financial problems

Complications of of Psychomotor Retardation

  • Substance abuse or regular alcohol consumption
  • Problems in school and work
  • Relationship problems and family conflicts
  • Physical illness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Tendency of self-damage and social remoteness
  • Diabetes and heart diseases resulting in excess weight
  • Social phobia, anxiety and panic disorders

Treatment of of Psychomotor Retardation


Doctors prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors to treat psychomotor retardation. These are known to have fewer side effects as compared to other antidepressants. Medicines often prescribed by the doctors include the likes of:

  1. Prozac containing fluoxetine
  2. Paroxetine in Paxil & Pexeva
  3. Escitalopram in Lexapro
  4. Citalopram in Celexa
  5. Sertraline in Zoloftpsychomotor retardation treatment

Tricyclic antidepressants prescribed by doctors include:

  1. Imipramine
  2. Amitriptyline
  3. Trimipramine
  4. Protriptyline
  5. Nortriptyline
  6. Desipramine

The effects are more severe as compared to other medications and they are given after the patient has used selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

  • Antipsychotics or mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety stimulant medicines are also used to reduce the effects of psychomotor retardation
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors include duloxetine, desvenlafaxine, levomilnacipran and venlafaxine help to improve the effects of the retardation
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors comprising of isocarboxazid, phenelzine, and tranylcypromine can also be prescribed. Along with these medications, one must limit their diet containing cheese, pickles, wine, herbal supplements and birth control pills as they may have severe consequences.
  • Atypical antidepressants like mirtazapine and trazodone have a sedating effect, and they are usually taken during the evening. Medications those are comparatively new like vilazodone, and vortioxetine have lower chances of having sexual after-effects.
  • Norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors are often prescribed not to have sexual after-effects. Bupropion present in Wellbutrin, aplenzin and Forfivo can also be given for the treatment.
  • People with schizophrenia could be prescribed medications like olanzapine, lithium, haloperidol or benzodiazepines that belong to the antipsychotic and atypical category of medication.
  • Incorrect dosage of the medications can also cause signs of psychomotor retardation. Adjusting or changing the dosage to suit the patient can prove to be beneficial in such cases.
  • Care must be taken to prescribe atypical antipsychotic medications along with anti-depressants to avoid dependence on the medication even after the problem has been treated.
  • Anti-manic or anticonvulsant medicines can be given to people who suffer from bipolar disorders to stabilize their mood.


  • Electroconvulsive therapy is used to treat people undergoing severe depression. In this treatment, electric currents are passed through the brain which intentionally triggers a brief seizure. It is effective in treating severe depressions within a few sessions.
  • Talk therapy refers to the patient speaking to a mental fitness provider. This exercise can help the patient to speak about their concerns that could be the reason behind the retardation. Other therapies like emotional therapy and speech therapy have also been known to yield good results in treating psychomotor retardation.

When to visit a Doctor?

As mentioned before, psychomotor retardation is not a life-threatening illness in itself, but it is a symptom of other health problems that a person may be facing. Observing a slower pace of thought and physical activity is enough reason to visit a doctor to run the necessary tests and confirm whether or not a person is suffering from an illness. Early diagnosis helps to treat the condition faster and more effectively.

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