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Catatonia Print E-mail

Dr. Kennedy Catatonia is a disturbance of motor behavior with either a psychological or neurological cause. Its most well-known form involves a rigid, immobile position that is held by a person for a considerable length of time — sometimes for days, weeks, or longer. It can also refer to agitated, purposeless motor activity that is not stimulated by something in the environment. A less extreme form of catatonia involves slowed motor activity. The physical posture of a catatonic individual may be unusual or inappropriate, and the individual may hold a posture if placed in it by someone else. This feature is called waxy flexibility.

Catatonic schizophrenia is fortunately rare today as it involves a marked disturbance in all areas of life. As a schizophrenic disorder, the individual shows disturbances in thinking, feeling, and behavior. Most schizophrenics are unable to form meaningful intimate relationships or train for and sustain meaningful employment. The catatonic type of schizophrenia is characterized by severe psychomotor disturbance with extreme immobility. The victim may stay in the same position for hours, days, weeks, or longer. The position assumed may be unusual and appear uncomfortable to the observer. If another person moves part of the catatonic individual's body, such as a limb, he or she may maintain the position into which they are placed ("waxy flexibility"). Sometimes catatonia presents itself as excessive motor activity which seems purposeless, and does not appear to fit the situation. In its most severe forms, whether stupor or agitation, the individual may need close supervision to keep from injuring him/herself, or others.

Individuals who are severely depressed may show disturbances of motor behavior that is similar to that of catatonic schizophrenics, as described above. They may be essentially immobile, or exhibit excessive but random motor activity. Extreme negativism, elective mutism (choosing not to speak), peculiar movements, mimicry of words or phrases (known as "echolalia") or mimicry movements (known as "echopraxia") may also be part of the picture. In its most extreme forms, catatonic stupor (not moving for hours, days, weeks, or longer), and catatonic activity (random activity) may necessitate supervision so that the individual does not hurt him/herself, or others. Catatonic behaviors may also be seen in persons with other mood disorders, such Bipolar I and Bipolar II disorders.

Individuals with catatonia due to a medical condition may show symptoms similar to persons with catatonic schizophrenia and catatonic depression. However, the cause is physiological. Some neurologic diseases, such as encephalitis, may cause catatonic symptoms that can be either temporary or lasting.

The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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