What is it?

Stereotypic movement disorder is a condition in which a person engages in repetitive, rhythmic movements which have no purpose. Sometimes, these movements may cause self-injury. The stereotypic movements become a disorder once it occurs longer than 4 weeks and interfere with the person’s normal daily functioning. Stereotypic movement disorder is more common among children with autism, developmental and intellectual disabilities. What causes the disorder is unknown, but it gets worse when the person is bored, stressed or frustrated. It may also occur in some physical disorders and drugs like cocaine.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Habit disorder
- Head banging
- Rocking
- Repetitive rocking movements
- Primary motoe stereotypes

Signs & symptoms

Symptoms of stereotypic movement disorder may include rocking, head banging, nail biting, self-biting, self hitting, picking at the skin, handshaking, waving and mouthing objects.


Stereotypic movement disorder is diagnosed upon findings from medical history and physical examinations. Sometimes blood tests or other tests may be done to rule out other conditions.


Stereotypic movement disorder treatment focuses mostly on protecting the child from injury. For example, if the child is banging his head against the wall, he must weat a helmet. Treatment may also include relaxation techniques and behavioral therapy such as differential Reinforcement of Other Behaviors (DRO), and Functional Communication Training (FTC). Antidepressants and atypical antipsychotics may also help.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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