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What Are the Treatments for Psychomotor Retardation?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Treatments for psychomotor retardation are dependent on its causes. This condition — which involves slow labored movements, possibly delayed speech, and occasionally a reduction in ability to provide self-care — can be caused by various psychiatric disorders. Some of the common illnesses associated with these symptoms are bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depression, and these all require different treatment. In most cases, appropriately diagnosing and addressing the underlying disorder results in improvement. Paradoxically, some treatments for these illnesses induce the disorder, and other treatments must then be considered.

Conditions like major depression, bipolar disorders, and schizophrenia commonly have psychomotor retardation as a symptom. It’s an understatement to say these conditions are not the same and require different kinds of help. Often, the help most approved for a specific disease results in a return to normal psychomotor activity levels.

For example, the treatment for this condition when it's caused by major depression is usually in the form of antidepressants. Occasionally, these are combined with atypical antipsychotic drugs like quetiapine or aripiprazole. Another viable option is electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), which may resolve an episode of depression within a few treatments. No matter which treatment is chosen, it’s likely that very slow movements and reduced physicality will recede as a patient recovers.

There is considerable difference in treatment for psychomotor retardation that occurs with bipolar disorder. Though this often manifests during the depressive stage of the illness, using antidepressants is generally thought to be inappropriate. Instead, the emphasis is on stabilizing moods with anti-manic or anticonvulsant medications like lithium, lamotrigine, carbamazepine, and valproic acid. As in medication treatment for depression, sometimes the use of atypical antipsychotic drugs is necessary. Some people with this disorder also take benzodiazepines for anxiety.

Treatment for this condition in schizophrenia begins with using atypical and typical antipsychotics. These could include drugs mentioned above, and others like haloperidol and olanzapine. Sometimes benzodiazepines are a part of treatment, too.

Successful recovery from any of these disorders can also depend on psychotherapy. Patients treated with psychotherapy may experience a reduced frequency of psychomotor retardation episodes. It may not always be helpful alone, but a combination of drugs and psychotherapy can have benefit.

In all instances, the use of benzodiazepines and antipsychotics may help reduce symptoms of psychosis and anxiety, but they can also cause psychomotor problems to some degree. Psychiatrists might consider adding additional drugs like stimulants to address the problem in these cases. One concern with stimulant use is that it may induce manic or hypomanic states in patients with bipolar disorder, which might also cause psychomotor agitation. Drug combinations need to be considered carefully to minimize the chance of this reaction occurring.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon994065 — On Jan 11, 2016

I wish I could talk to someone about this.

By anon327373 — On Mar 27, 2013

Just taking an antidepressive/anxiety combination drug, only twice, put me into a full blown a psychomotor state. I could only move like a 90 year old and my mind was racing.

I was in bed for a year, and yet all the doctors say it cannot be induced by antidepressants, but I simply do not believe them.

By strawCake — On Sep 05, 2012

@JaneAir - You brought up a good point. I can totally see how depression could cause psychomotor retardation. After all, the persons moods are depressed, so it makes sense the same imbalance in the brain could cause their movements and speech to become "depressed" also.

It sounds like in most people, treating the depression is enough to make the psychomotor retardation go away, which is why I think it's probably caused by the causes of depression.

By JaneAir — On Sep 05, 2012

I had no idea that psychomotor retardation even existed! But now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I've known a few people that had it. I just thought that people who were depressed would naturally move a bit slower and talk less, because of depression. I had no idea there was a name for it though! But I'm glad there is at least a treatment for it.

By eidetic — On Sep 04, 2012

@LoriCharlie - It is interesting that the treatments for these illnesses can cause psychomotor retardation. Imagine how frustrating it would be to be suffering a major depressive episode, without psychomotor retardation, and then end up having it because of the medication you're on.

Then, some psychiatrists will put the on stimulants to try and treat the problem! I don't know if I'd want to be on so many different medications that affect my moods, so I guess it's a good thing I don't suffer from any of these psychiatric problems.

By LoriCharlie — On Sep 03, 2012

It's so interesting that psychiatric disorders like major depressive disorder can cause psychomotor retardation, but the treatments can cause it too! It sounds like psychiatrists really have their jobs cut out for them when they decide what medication to give to a person who is having psychiatric issues!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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