Bipolar Disorder Psychomotor Activity in Bipolar Disorder How Moods Can Impact Motor Activity By Marcia Purse Marcia Purse Marcia Purse is a mental health writer and bipolar disorder advocate who brings strong research skills and personal experiences to her writing. Learn about our editorial process Updated on October 24, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Akeem Marsh, MD Medically reviewed by Akeem Marsh, MD LinkedIn Twitter Akeem Marsh, MD, is a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist who has dedicated his career to working with medically underserved communities. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Adam Kuylenstierna / EyeEm / Getty Images "Psychomotor" refers to how the brain's mental processes affect physical movement. Psychomotor activity can be increased (psychomotor agitation) or decreased (psychomotor retardation). Psychomotor agitation or retardation can be a feature of several types of mental illness but is commonly used to diagnose bipolar disorder. Psychomotor changes can be indicative of a manic or depressive episode. These movements, or lack thereof, are directly related to what's going on in your brain. For example, if you are depressed, you will generally have less psychomotor activity as your emotions leave you feeling sluggish and weak. By contrast, you may exhibit accelerated psychomotor activity, such as fidgeting or making repetitive movements, during a manic episode when your energy level is high. Understanding Psychomotor Agitation Psychomotor agitation is a type of purposeless, agitated movement. At times, it may be unintentional. It occurs in bipolar disorder, as well as in other mood disorders such as depression or schizophrenia. Examples of Psychomotor Agitation PacingFidgetingFoot or finger tappingTalking faster than normalSwitching television channels repeatedly Psychomotor agitation can occur during a manic or hypomanic episode. Other symptoms of a manic or hypomanic episode include expansive mood, a condition characterized by excessive, impulsive, and grandiose behavior, such as: Irritability and sudden bursts of angerExcessive spending or lavishing gifts on othersIncreased risk-taking or difficulty distinguishing between safe and unsafe gamblesSocially inappropriate behavior (such as being overly friendly in a way that makes others feel awkward)An escalation in goal-oriented activities (either big or incidental tasks that need to be completed immediately) Understanding Psychomotor Retardation Psychomotor retardation in bipolar disorder is defined by slow or impaired movement. It's more likely to occur during depressive episodes and is primarily associated with bipolar I disorder. Examples of Psychomotor Retardation Talking more slowlyDifficulty writing or typingHaving trouble getting out of bedTaking a long time in between bites of foodMoving slowly (often hunched over with head lowered) Psychomotor retardation can occur with the classic symptoms of depressions, including: Frequent crying Feeling sad or empty Difficulty making decisions Sleeping too much or too little Eating less or more than normal Trouble focusing or remembering things Self-harming behaviors and having suicidal thoughts Can Depression Turn Into Bipolar Disorder? Treatment Evaluating psychomotor activity not only helps doctors diagnose bipolar disorder, but it also allows them to assess the severity of a manic or depressive episode. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but treatments such as medications and psychotherapy can help people manage the condition. Medications used to treat bipolar depression include antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs. Psychotherapy may consist of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), family counseling, and/or group therapy. Finding the right combination of treatments can take time, but you don't have to go through it alone. If you've been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it's important that you build a support network of family, friends, as well as a doctor and mental health professional you trust. If you or a loved one are struggling with bipolar disorder, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. 9 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. 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A study on patients with bipolar disorder type I and their first-degree relatives. J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2013;19(4):474-82. doi:10.1017/S1355617713000015 Culpepper L. The diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder: decision-making in primary care. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2014;16(3). doi:10.4088/PCC.13r01609 Buyukdura JS, Mcclintock SM, Croarkin PE. Psychomotor retardation in depression: biological underpinnings, measurement, and treatment. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2011;35(2):395-409. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2010.10.019 Ng CW, How CH, Ng YP. Depression in primary care: assessing suicide risk. Singapore Med J. 2017;58(2):72-77. doi:10.11622/smedj.2017006 Crowe M, Inder M. Staying well with bipolar disorder: A qualitative analysis of five-year follow-up interviews with young people. J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2018;25(4):236-244. doi:10.1111/jpm.12455 Additional Reading Burdick KE, Gunawardane N, Goldberg JF, Halperin JM, Garno JL, Malhotra AK. Attention and psychomotor functioning in bipolar depression. Psychiatry Research. 2009;166(2-3):192-200. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2008.03.006 Faurholt-Jepsen M, Brage S, Vinberg M, Kessing LV. State-related differences in the level of psychomotor activity in patients with bipolar disorder – Continuous heart rate and movement monitoring. Psychiatry Research. 2016;237:166-174. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2016.01.047 Leventhal AM, Zimmerman M. The relative roles of bipolar disorder and psychomotor agitation in substance dependence. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. 24(2):360-365. doi:10.1037/a0019217 By Marcia Purse Marcia Purse is a mental health writer and bipolar disorder advocate who brings strong research skills and personal experiences to her writing. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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