-Catatonia is a syndrome of psychological and motorological disturbances. Karl Ludwig Kahlbaum first described it in 1874: Die Katatonie oder das Spannungirresein (Catatonia or Tension Insanity). In the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) it is not recognized as a separate disorder, but is associated with psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia (catatonic type), bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other mental disorders, as well as drug abuse or overdose (or both). It may also be seen in many medical disorders including infections (such as encephalitis), autoimmune disorders, focal neurologic lesions (including strokes), metabolic disturbances and abrupt or overly rapid benzodiazepine withdrawal. It can be an adverse reaction to prescribed medication. It bears similarity to conditions such as encephalitis lethargica and neuroleptic malignant syndrome. There are a variety of treatments available; benzodiazepines are a first-line treatment strategy. Electro-convulsive therapy is also sometimes used. There is growing evidence for the effectiveness of NMDA antagonists for benzodiazepine resistant catatonia. Antipsychotics are sometimes employed but require caution as they can worsen symptoms and have serious adverse effects.
Edson Zerati, MD