Why Do People Rock Back and Forth

Rocking back and forth repeatedly usually indicates some kind of psychological problem.

Possible conditions

Stereotypic movement disorder is often the reason why a person to rocks back and forth. There may be other repetitive movements, such as hand waving or head banging, with this disorder. Stereotypic movement disorder is a mental health problem. Symptoms may also include:

  • Swaying
  • Tics
  • Picking at skin
  • Shaking
  • Biting oneself

Some of these symptoms are more exaggerated than others. The symptoms often change over periods of time. Overall, the repetitive movements interfere with life.

General definition

Any action that gets repeated over and over is considered part of a stereotypic movement disorder. Sometimes the root cause is unknown. There are several known reasons for where this disorder will show up. Possible reasons for stereotypic movement to occur:

  • Drug abuse: especially cocaine and methamphetamine; this disorder may be short-lived or it can become permanent
  • Brain trauma injury
  • Sensory deprivation: seen in small infants deprived of human nurturing
  • Anxiety: sudden or long-term; heightened emotional stress can make this disorder worse
  • Psychiatric disorders

Other general information

Certain populations are more likely to develop this disorder than others. Boys are more likely than girls to develop stereotypic movement disorder. It can show up in childhood or adolescence. If you are autistic or have Tourette syndrome or other cognitive disorders, you are more likely to develop this condition. Mentally retarded people are also more likely to develop stereotypic movement disorder.


Treatment includes cognitive behavior therapy, prescription medications, antidepressants or antianxiety drugs.


Most of the time there is no preventative measures that you can take to avoid getting stereotypic movement disorder or any psychiatric disorder. Some doctors believe that genetics are a big part of psychiatric disorders. Of course, you can choose not to use drugs, wear a helmet when participating in sports, and eliminate anxiety and stress in your life. If your child develops repetitive movements at an early age, it’s wise to contact your pediatrician right away. Getting treatment early is important.


One psychotic disorder that causes the stereotypic movement disorder is schizophrenia. There are several kinds of schizophrenia; negative, positive and cognitive.

Negative schizophrenia is a lost personality disorder. Symptoms of negative schizophrenia include:

  • No pleasure in life: no enjoyment in those things you once enjoyed
  • No emotions: no facial signals, no smile, but no frown
  • Lack of attention: lose the ability to pay attention, feeling confused
  • No goals: typically if you have this disorder you won’t do well in school or work
  • Lack of self-care: you won’t care for your regular everyday hygienic needs

Positive schizophrenia is more of an added personality or a new personality that gets added. Symptoms of positive schizophrenia include:

  • Hallucinations: hearing voices, seeing or smelling things that aren’t there
  • Delusions: these are ideas that aren’t based in truth such as thinking you’re superhuman
  • Acting odd, overexcited or angry: rocking back and forth is one symptoms that occurs with positive schizophrenia
  • Wrong emotions for situation: laughing at sad situations, crying at happy occasions, etc.
  • Can’t keep your thoughts: you make no sense when you talk, go off on tangents.

Cognitive schizophrenia includes symptoms that affect how you think; this disorder is often difficult for others to detect. These symptoms include:

  • Memory loss
  • Not being able to understand what people are saying
  • Behavior changes: fear, unable to reason, awkward standing positions, making up words
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