What is Catatonic Schizophrenia?

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  • Written By: Kathy R
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2018
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Catatonic schizophrenia is a serious mental illness. People with this disorder do not interpret reality in what is considered to be a normal way. Some can appear frozen, not able to speak or respond to other stimuli. Others, on the opposite end of the spectrum of symptoms, may appear to be extremely excitable. Patients may also imitate the actions of others, and mimic others' speech without realizing they are doing it.

Both the frozen state and the excited state are known as catatonia. While these are the most characteristic symptoms of this disorder, there are others. These include having delusions, speaking incoherently, becoming angry for no reason, hallucinating, having no emotional reactions and social isolation. Symptoms can vary in severity and may even subside completely at times.

The National Institutes of Health, a prominent medical research organization in the United States estimates that less than one percent of the population has catatonic schizophrenia. Most people who experience catatonia do not have this disorder. Catatonia can be a symptom of various, different psychiatric illnesses.

People with this disease should seek help in order to avoid harming themselves or others. Left to their own devices, patients are at risk for suicide, incarceration, malnutrition and alcohol and drug abuse. While the cause of catatonic schizophrenia is unknown, patients have shown marked improvements with the proper therapy.


Treatment can include talk, drug and vocational therapies. A trained therapist can help the patient learn to cope with his or her symptoms without engaging in destructive behavior. He or she can also help the patient’s family better understand the disease and the person suffering from it.

A psychiatrist may prescribe drugs, such as anti-anxiety medications or antipsychotics, to change the chemistry in the person’s brain. People with extreme cases of the disorder may also benefit from electroconvulsive therapy. This is a treatment in which the doctor sends electric currents through the patient’s brain, also with the aim of altering brain chemistry.

People with catatonic schizophrenia often need vocational therapy because they can have difficulty functioning in the workplace. Individuals with this disorder may lack good hygiene, adequate communication skills and the ability to interact with others in a socially acceptable way. Without proper therapy, they may become unemployable.

It is important that the patient continue to attend therapy sessions and take his or her prescribed medication, even if he or she feels better. A lapse in treatment can cause symptoms to come back quickly, sometimes worse than before. With proper management, people with this disorder can live normal lives.



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