Catatonic schizophrenia is a type of schizophrenia that produces extremes of behavior. Some people with catatonic schizophrenia spend hours or even weeks completely immobile and unresponsive. Some display intense activity seemingly without purpose, and still others switch between these two extremes.
Although it’s a common form of schizophrenia in other parts of the world, catatonic schizophrenia is now rare in both Europe and North America. Why rates of catatonic schizophrenia have dropped in these locations is unknown.
Catatonic Schizophrenia Symptoms
A person with catatonic schizophrenia may be unable to move or speak. Conversely, catatonic schizophrenia symptoms can include intense but seemingly pointless activity or motion.
Catatonic schizophrenia symptoms include staring and an apparent lack of awareness of the surrounding environment, a condition known as “catatonic stupor.” People with catatonic schizophrenia may remain in a single position for hours or even weeks, no matter how uncomfortable it appears.
Catatonic schizophrenia symptoms may include “waxy flexibility.” If the body position of a person with waxy flexibility is altered, he or she will maintain the new position for a long period of time.
Most people associate catatonia with immobility, but catatonic schizophrenia symptoms can include excessive mobility. The individual engages in apparently meaningless activity, such as arm flailing, pacing in circles or spinning. Some people with catatonic schizophrenia make repetitive loud noises. Catatonic schizophrenia symptoms may alternate between immobility and excessive activity.
Other catatonic schizophrenia symptoms include:
- Command automatism, in which the individual passively complies with instructions
- Echoalia, which consists of repeating or echoing a word or phrase said by someone else
- Echopraxia, copying someone else’s movements, is another typical symptom.
- Negativism, a condition in which the individual resists attempts to be moved. Individuals may resist all instructions, become rigid to resist movement or actively move in the opposite direction.
People with catatonic schizophrenia may also involuntarily grimace, assume unusual positions, repeat the same movement continuously or rigidly follow routines.
In addition to characteristic catatonic schizophrenia symptoms, people who have catatonic schizophrenia may exhibit common schizophrenia symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, social isolation and inappropriate or deadened emotions.
Catatonic Schizophrenia Diagnosis
The presence of catatonia alone is insufficient for a catatonic schizophrenia diagnosis. Other medical conditions can cause catatonia, including autism, substance abuse, mania, severe depression and seizures.
A diagnosis of catatonic schizophrenia is considered only if the patient first meets the criteria for the broader diagnosis of schizophrenia. Catatonic symptoms can interfere with the compilation of an accurate medical history, so it may take time to verify or rule out catatonic schizophrenia.
Catatonic Schizophrenia Treatment
Catatonic schizophrenia treatment resembles more general schizophrenia treatment. Medication, counseling or electroconvulsive therapy may be used in catatonic schizophrenia treatment. Individuals with severe symptoms may require periods of hospitalization.
People with catatonic schizophrenia may not see the need for schizophrenia treatment, especially during periods when symptoms are not noticeable. Catatonic schizophrenia treatment requires consistency to work most effectively.
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Mayo Clinic. (2008). Catatonic schizophrenia. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/catatonic-schizophrenia/DS00863
Mulhauser, G. (n.d.). Catatonic schizophrenia diagnostic criteria. Retrieved July 5, 2010, from http://counsellingresource.com/distress/schizophrenia/icd/catatonic.html