The Syndrome of Catatonia

  • Wilcox J
  • Reid Duffy P
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Abstract

Catatonia is a psychomotor syndrome which has historically been associated with schizophrenia. Many clinicians have thought that the prevalence of this condition has been decreasing over the past few decades. This review reminds clinicians that catatonia is not exclusively associated with schizophrenia, and is still common in clinical practice. Many cases are related to affective disorders or are of an idiopathic nature. The illusion of reduced prevalence has been due to evolving diagnostic systems that failed to capture catatonic syndromes. This systemic error has remained unchallenged, and potentiated by the failure to perform adequate neurological evaluations and catatonia screening exams on psychiatric patients. We find that current data supports catatonic syndromes are still common, often severe and of modern clinical importance. Effective treatment is relatively easy and can greatly reduce organ failure associated with prolonged psychomotor symptoms. Prompt identification and treatment can produce a robust improvement in most cases. The ongoing prevalence of this syndrome requires that psychiatrists recognize catatonia and its presentations, the range of associated etiologies, and the import of timely treatment.

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Authors

  • James Wilcox

  • Pam Reid Duffy

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