Background: Little has been published on gratification disorder ("infantile masturbation") in early childhood.
Aims: To expand on the profile of patients diagnosed with this condition.
Methods: Retrospective case note review; Fraser of Allander Neurosciences Unit paediatric neurology outpatient department 1972–2002.
Results: Thirty one patients were diagnosed (11 males and 20 females). Twenty one were referred for evaluation of possible epileptic seizures or epilepsy. The median age at first symptoms was 10.5 months (range 3 months to 5 years 5 months). The median age at diagnosis was 24.5 months (range 5 months to 8 years). The median frequency of events was seven times per week, and the median length 2.5 minutes. Events occurred in any situation in 10 children, and in a car seat in 11. Types of behaviour manifested were dystonic posturing in 19, grunting in 10, rocking in 9, eidetic imagery in 7, and sweating in 6. Two children had been previously diagnosed as having definite epilepsy. In nine cases home video was invaluable in allowing confident diagnosis.
Conclusion: Gratification disorder, otherwise called infantile masturbation, is an important consideration in the differential diagnosis of epilepsy and other paroxysmal events in early childhood. Home video recording of events often prevents unnecessary investigations and treatments.