Medical Definition of Automatism

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

Automatism: An unconscious movement that may resemble simple repetitive tics or may be a complex sequence of natural-looking movements. This curious type of behavior occurs in a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders. The neurologic disorders associated with automatisms include narcolepsy (the sudden recurrent uncontrollable compulsion to sleep) and some forms of epilepsy such as especially psychomotor epilepsy. The psychiatric conditions associated with automatisms include schizophrenia (catatonic type) and fugue (flight) states. Automatisms involve doing something "automatically" and not remembering afterwards how one did it or even that one did it. Automatisms are also called automatic behavior.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018