Catatonic Disorders

Catatonic disorders, often referred to as catatonia, are cauterized as disturbances in motor behavior and/or muscle movement that originate from either a physiological or a psychological basis. One of the most frequent symptoms of these disorders is immobility caused by standing in a stiff bodily position for a significant amount of time. If you have a catatonic disorder, you may maintain a stiffened unmoved body position for hours or months at a time. Apart from the immobility, other symptoms include: restlessness or purposeless movements that are unnecessary.

Types and Causes

There are many types of catatonic disorders such as:

Catatonic Disorders

Catatonic schizophrenia is one type of catatonic disorder.

Catatonic Schizophrenia: There is no known cause of schizophrenia, but there appears to be certain abnormalities in the functionality or the structure of the brain, limbic system, the basal ganglia and/or the frontal cortex that increases the likelihood of developing this mental illness. Because all three of these areas are connected to one another, a dysfunction in one region can be associated with a structural defect of the other region. Brain imagining suggests that people with schizophrenia have a dysfunction in their limbic region.

Depression with Features of Catatonia: The causative factor of various mood disorders may be associated with the irregular production of the neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that transmit nerve impulses that are carried from cell to cell. Three neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine) appear to play a significant role in this type of catatonia. Anti-depressants appear to be effective when treating this type of catatonia because they act on the receptors of these two neurotransmitters.

Catatonia Due To a General Medical Condition:

Catatonia has been associated with encephalitis and Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms of these diseases can resemble symptoms of catatonia. If you have catatonia due to encephalitis will you will not present with psychosis.


  • Motionlessness of your body (held for an abnormally long duration of time).
  • Rigidity is one of the most frequent symptoms of catatonia. Catatonic rigidity occurs when you assume a rigid, stiffened, unmoved position.
  • Pointless or purposeless movements that may be related to excitement or even over-agitation.
  • Inappropriate and/or bizarre postures (holds these postures for an abnormally long duration of time).
  • Overall slow motor activity that may lead to immobility. You may be completely unaware of your environment, a condition referred to as catatonic stupor.
  • A lack or complete absence of any form of physical movement, a condition which is known as akinesia.
  • Waxy flexibility in movement of a certain limb or body part from one position  to another that is then maintained for a long amount of time.  The limb or body part appears to be made out of wax as a result of such movements.

Catatonia symptoms caused by a medical condition, mood disorder or schizophrenia are generally indistinguishable from one another. If you suffer from this condition due to a general medical condition, you may have a greater awareness when it comes to your condition and symptoms. You may also experience periods of clear thinking and/or appropriate emotional responses. If you suffer from severe depression or schizophrenia, you may be unaware that you have catatonia.


Catatonia symptoms typically are very prominent and distinguishable. The DSM-IV recognizes catatonic disorder as a mental disorder.


Catatonia treatment depends upon the cause of the condition. If schizophrenia is deemed the cause of the condition it is treated using a multi-faceted approach and a variety of psychotherapeutic and pharmacological methods. In some cases, hospitalization may be required in order to protect you from harming yourself and/or others. Family education and supportive psychotherapy can help you and your family and friends adjust and manage the condition.


American Psychiatry Association. (2001). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.).  Washington, D.C.

Cengage, G. (2003).Gale encyclopedia of mental disorders. Retrieved from

Kaplan, H. I. & Sadock, B. J. (2007).Kaplan and Sadock’s synopsis of psychiatry: Behavioral sciences. Clinical Psychiatry. Retrieved from


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