Psychogenic Movement Disorder (PMD) is classified as a Medically Unexplained Symptom (MUS). This condition reveals itself typically as a conversion disorder. A conversion disorder with accompanying psychogenic movements is defined by the DSM-IV as a movement disorder which is not related to organic damage to the nervous system; conversion disorders are considered to have a psychological origin. This is not to be confused with factitious disorder or malingering; the symptoms of conversion disorders are not deliberately fashioned or feigned.

PMD functions as an umbrella term for a cluster of movement disorders when doctors can find no neurologic or other medical indication to explain symptoms. PMD can present as any number of neurologically based movement disorders, including tremor, myoclonus, dystonia, chorea, bradykinesia, myoclonus, tics, athetosis, ataxia, or others. Neurologists and psychologists alike are often baffled by PMD. PMD patients are estimated to account for 2-3% of all patients in movement disorder clinics today. Thus, in recent years, the disorder is receiving increased attention and focus.

The emotion and motion centers are very tightly linked within the in the brain. Therefore, it is not uncommon for the body to respond with motor symptoms when there is an emotional stress. Consider a person in the midst of a dangerous situation where the fight or flight mechanism in the brain is activated. Trembling hands is a very common symptom associated with this response. When a person experiences a panic attack, the same shaking response is typical. This movement could be considered as falling under the umbrella of PMD.

Vanessa Hinson, MD, director of the Movement Disorders Program at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, states that “with the correct explanation of symptoms and guidance toward the appropriate treatment, 99% of PMD patients accept the diagnosis and become actively involved in treatment.”

Hinson adds, “I often make the analogy that on a small scale, if someone who is supposed to speak in public is nervous, their hands might start shaking, or if they’re embarrassed, their face might get red, so emotional feelings can translate into physical symptoms.” She said that most patients are receptive to the analogy and understand what she is saying.

Brain Changers takes an integrated approach toward healing that involves Christian counseling and neurofeedback therapy. This approach differs from traditional treatment because of the emphasis on neurofeedback therapy. Ongoing stress, depression, or anxiety often cause physical changes to occur in the brain. PMD patients express these brain changes as motor responses. Through neurofeedback, the brain waves are influenced back to a normal state, allowing the client to experience significant reduction or elimination of the symptoms which are responsible for their condition.

Because stress is a chief triggering factor in PMD symptoms, a key component of healing involves counseling sessions to help identify the specific stress factors that may be producing the motion symptoms and to develop more effective coping strategies to deal with these triggers. It remains imperative that the patient understands these movement symptoms are real and actual; the emotional and motion centers of the brain function together. With PMD, it seems that these centers become crossed in their response. Patients need to understand that physical brain function is largely responsible for their symptoms. There is a dignity and liberty when a person understands there is a definite physiological component to their diagnosis and symptoms. This fact alone is a vital part of the healing process!

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