Catatonia (Analysis of Symptoms & Cures)

This guide sheds light on the different ways in which catatonia manifests itself in people with mental disorders.

It aims to provide information regarding the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of this disorder as well as the severity of the disease.  

Catatonia is a psychiatric condition which is used to describe a set of behaviours in which a person experiences the inability to move normally.

Catatonia can manifest itself in the form of a variety of symptoms ranging from simple flawed movements, to complete paralysis.

It usually affects people with certain prior mental illnesses.

How is catatonia defined?

Previously, catatonia had been identified as a subset of schizophrenia.

However research has indicated that it is a separate disorder altogether.

Although it may result from schizophrenia and other mental disorders, it does not always have to accompany them.

Many people who do not have any mental disorder can experience symptoms of catatonia.

Therefore, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5), has identified it as a separate disorder which refers to a specific set of behaviours.

Catatonia can be defined as a set of behaviours that point towards a mental disorder.

They usually indicate that a particular mental disorder has reached a critical point.

This is typically a sign that the patient needs treatment immediately.

Catatonia is therefore referred to as a psychomotor disorder.

This includes any behaviours or set of behaviours that inhibit the neurotransmitters from functioning normally, thereby causing paralysis in one’s body.

Although paralysis may occur, most patients are affected by general distortions in movement such as lack of balance, slurred speech or other such disorders. 

Catatonia is more common than previously thought. Researchers have indicated that many cases of catatonia go undiagnosed.

The reason for this is that there has been a debate on whether catatonia should be considered a separate mental disorder or a subset of existing mental disorders.

Until recently, it had been synonymous with schizophrenia. However, now, it is regarded as a separate disease.

Diagnostic Aspect of Catatonia

Because catatonia has many of the symptoms which were traditionally associated with other psychotic disorders, it is difficult to diagnose.

However, there is a particular criterion that has to be met before a patient can be diagnosed with catatonia.

Although you should visit a physiologist if you are affected by any one of these symptoms, you should not worry. 

Catatonia can only be diagnosed in people who have a combination of three conventional psychotic systems simultaneously. 

This could be a combination of catalepsy, negativism, posturing, stupor, grimacing, Echopraxia or mannerism.

If any three of these symptoms are present in an individual simultaneously, then they may be diagnosed with catatonia.

However, only a qualified psychiatrist can identify whether an individual’s symptoms qualify as catatonic or not. 

The reason why catatonia is separately diagnosed is that many mental clinics and hospitals have realized that proper diagnoses are the basis for any cure.

You would be more likely to cure your illness if it is accurately identified.

Many patients in developing countries die in hospitals due to the wrong diagnosis.

This leads to the patient taking the wrong medication, which could be fatal.

Types of catatonia 

Catatonia is divided into three subcategories in terms of how it affects patients as well as the severity of the symptoms.

It is important to note that this classification is done to understand the condition in a better way.

It is not used during the official diagnosis.  

  1. Malignant catatonia- This refers to people who are always disturbed mentally and can never seem to be relaxed. You should not associate it with common anxiety however. People who are affected with malignant catatonia are likely to experience physical conditions, such as fever, high blood pressure as well as increased pulse rate, along with the mental symptoms.
  1. Retarded Catatonia: This type of catatonia is usually more common amongst patients. You may recognize it in patients that are typically slow in their movements and refrain from speaking often. They may also have difficulty in moving various limbs. 
  1. Excited catatonia- Patients affected with excited catatonia usually exhibit symptoms that are the opposite of those seen in retarded catatonia. These patients usually act in dangerous ways, and their movements are a lot faster than that of normal people. 

These types are more common, although there may be other subcategories as well.

If you are affected with excited catatonia, then the treatment will be different from that which is given to someone with retarded catatonia.

Potential Causes of catatonia

Catatonia is often caused by other mental illnesses.

Although scientists can effectively diagnose catatonia, the research on exactly what causes the disease is not sufficient.

A significant cause of catatonia is Parkinson’s disease. If you know someone with Parkinson’s disease, it is likely that they may exhibit some of the symptoms of catatonia.

Other mental disorders that cause catatonia are schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.

However, you should note that, although these illnesses may result in catatonia, they are still diagnosed separately. 

Catatonia may also be caused as a side effect of certain medicines, although this is rare.

However, you should still monitor people who are on medication for mental conditions.

If someone develops catatonia from medication, then you should report it to the medical practitioner immediately.  

Research has shown that catatonia may be caused due to the lack of certain chemicals in the brain or a shortage of neurotransmitter cells.

If you lack dopamine or you have a shortage of brain tissue cells, then you may be at risk of developing catatonia.

Possible Symptoms of Catatonia

Catatonia brings about distinguishable, physical symptoms in patients. Some of the common symptoms are: 

  • Irresponsiveness to external stimuli. The person may not respond when you talk to them, or they may be immune to certain sounds.
  • Repetitive movement. This is a common symptom amongst people with catatonia. They usually move in repetitively in a way that is not guided by their conscious self. A person may not even be able to control these movements. 
  • Mimicking. Catatonia affects brain functions, which causes people to be unaware of their movements. When an individual is paralyzed, they may copy your actions or speech.
  • A lack of appetite. This is more common amongst patients who have other mental disorders. Even though they may feel like eating, their brain is usually unable to comprehend this feeling. You should always ensure that they eat balanced meals as malnourishment might cause the symptoms to increase. 
  • Restlessness or hyperactivity. This is not the same type of hyperactivity that you experience after taking a large dose of coffee. Catatonic patients may be unable to rest and maybe in a state of continuous excitement.  

Possible Treatment 

Catatonia can be treated if diagnosed correctly.

If you are diagnosed with catatonia, you will often have various treatment options which include both medications, a change in lifestyle as well as physiotherapy. 

The good news is that 80% of patients diagnosed with catatonia respond positively to treatment.

Therefore, there is a good chance that a catatonic patient may be cured.

In many cases, this treatment is administered along with the treatment for another mental illness. 

Your doctor may prescribe certain medications that may keep you in control of your motor behaviours.

Medicine can often cure this illness or at least reduce the severity of the symptoms.

However, it should only be used after a proper prescription from a qualified medical practitioner.

Some helpful resources

  1. If you want to dwell more in-depth into the topic of catatonia and find about how it may affect you, then the book “Catatonia: A Clinician’s Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment Kindle Edition” would be a great place to start. 
  1. If you are interested in the clinical aspects of the diseases, and how they should be viewed in the medical community, the book: “The Madness of Fear: A History of Catatonia 1st Edition”. Not only does this book describe the way patients perceive the world through the emotion of fear, but it also suggests valuable ways of dealing with this illness.  
  2. While not much research has been done on catatonia in recent years, there are still some books that present value and up to date information on this illness. Find out about what recent research suggests regarding catatonia as well as how innovative methods can have a much higher success rate in terms of healing patients. “Catatonia: From Psychopathology to Neurobiology”.
  1. If you’ve already got all your desired information regarding the particulars of catatonia and want to understand some of the therapies being used to cure this disease, then the book “Electroshock: Healing Mental Illness” is perfect for you. Not only does it shed light on the various ways electroshock can help stimulate the brain, but it also addresses many of the objections that people have regarding electroshock treatment.
  2. You may also be interested in reading “Cognitive Theory, Research, and Therapy”.

Conclusion

Catatonia is a motor disorder that has its roots in the brain’s inability to function normally.

It is diagnosable, and patients can be treated effectively. However, it is amongst the more advanced mental disorders.

If the symptoms are not treated, they can potentially be life-threatening.

Therefore, you should consult a physician if any of the symptoms become visible.

Although it is curable, the exact cause is not known.

More research is being conducted on this illness, which will help scientists develop a better cure for catatonic patients.

However, you must take special care of such patients and ensure that they are not exposed to high-risk situations such as driving or other similar scenarios.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

FAQs

What is catatonic psychosis?

Catatonic psychosis is a disorder that affects the motor ability of the brain.

A person who is affected with catatonic psychosis usually has inhibited movement and may not be able to move frequently.  

What triggers catatonia?

Catatonia is triggered mainly by the loss or damage of neurotic cells in the brain.

However, in most cases, it is caused by other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

It may also be caused due to excessive use of neurotic medicines.

What is excited catatonia?

Exited catatonia is when a person exhibits extraordinary levels of alertness and excitement.

The affected person may be hyperactive and cannot be at peace.

In addition to this, they may always feel under pressure and unable to rest.

What is a catatonic person aware of?

A catatonic person is generally unaware of a hat is taking place in their surroundings.

Even though they may be conscious, physically, they are unaware of what is happening to them mentally.

What happens during catatonia?

During catatonia, a person may be paralyzed and unable to move certain limbs.

They may mimic certain movements or speech.

In addition to this, they might become unconscious or show signs of memory loss.

In general, a person may lose touch with the external environment. 

Can you die from catatonia?

You cannot die from catatonia itself.

However, there is a risk of dying from the symptoms that accompany it.

If you are driving and you get a catatonic attack which paralyzes your hands, the chances are that you will die from the resulting accident.

References

  1. What is catatonic Schizophrenia?
  2. Catatonia Treatments
  3. All about Catatonia and Schizophrenia
  4. What is catatonia?
  5. Catatonia Symptoms

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