Psychogenic movement disorders in children: A report of 15 cases and a review of the literature

Authors

  • Petra Schwingenschuh MD,

    1. Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London, United Kingdom
    2. Department of Neurology, Medical University of Graz, Austria
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  • Claustre Pont-Sunyer MD,

    1. Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London, United Kingdom
    2. Department of Neurology IMIM-Hospital del Mar, Barcelona, Spain
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  • Robert Surtees MD,

    1. Neurosciences Unit, UCL Institute of Child Health, London, United Kingdom
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  • Mark J. Edwards PhD,

    1. Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London, United Kingdom
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  • Kailash P. Bhatia FRCP

    Corresponding author
    1. Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London, United Kingdom
    • Sobell Department, Institute of Neurology, UCL, Queen Square, London, WC1N 3BG
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  • This paper is dedicated to the memory of Prof. Robert Surtees who died in August 2007.

  • Potential conflict of interest: None reported.

Abstract

Data on psychogenic movement disorders (PMD) in children are scarce, with most existing literature relating to adults only. We report 15 cases with the aim of highlighting the clinical characteristics, risk factors, comorbidity, treatment, outcome, and prognosis of PMD in children. Only 13% of cases had onset before age 10, with the mean age at onset being 12.3 years. Females were predominantly affected (F:M = 4:1). The most common types of movement disorders seen were dystonia (47%), tremor (40%), and gait disorders (13%). Multiple hyperkinetic phenomenologies were observed in many cases. Abrupt onset and precipitation by minor injuries, and stressful life events were commonly reported. Clinical clues on examination suggesting a psychogenic origin were similar to those identified in adults. A distinct feature of PMD in children was the predominant involvement of the dominant limb. The underlying psychiatric diagnosis was conversion disorder in the majority of cases. Time from symptom onset until diagnosis of a PMD varied broadly (between 2 weeks and 5 years). Treatment with cognitive and behavioral therapy and rehabilitation by a multidisciplinary team led to improvement in most cases. However, treatment was much more effective in children with a short time from symptom onset to diagnosis and treatment. © 2008 Movement Disorder Society

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