A term that is often used in the field of psychology, perseveration describes the uncontrollable repetition of a word, phrase, or gesture due to an organic mental illness such as Prader-Willi Syndrome in children, or traumatic brain injury (TBI) in adults. Even when a stimulus in the environment has been removed or stopped, the individual may continue to display actions of perseveration. The word perseveration is related to the word "perserverance," which is the act or instance of repetition.
The inability of ceasing a particular action can range in type. In any of the cases, the individual enters or continues a train of thought that is narrowly focused; in a sense, having tunnel vision. This focus could be on anything from a simple idea to a complex problem. Even if the original problem solving strategy is not the working, the person may not be able to change planes of thinking, suggesting a disability in abstract reasoning. This condition is measurable with the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test.
Neurologists have found that individuals who display perseveration often suffer from developmental abnormalities or injury to the brain's frontal lobe. The extent of perseveration ranges from organic illness to brain injury and illicit drug use. Some of these neurological conditions include but are not limited to dementia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette's syndrome, and catatonia. While the word perseveration has been integrated into mainstream usage, the word itself is distinguished from similar ones such as obsession or compulsion. A person with perseveration may actually enjoy the repetitive activities he or she is engaging in. The term obsession or compulsion is used when such activities become both undesirable actions and unstoppable.
Depending on the magnitude of perseveration, corrective actions can be taken to prevent the condition from getting worse. Treatments range from behavioral and cognitive strategies to medication. During childhood when perseveration mostly affects teachers and peers, experts suggest using techniques in diversion and behavioral management to adjust the issue. Management techniques include changing the subject in a conversation, setting time limits, confirming the answer, or simply saying "I don't know" to put an end to persistent questioning. Experts also suggest that teachers and parents teach children the correct, acceptable social exchange patterns, in order to set a standard for future reference.