Catatonia: a review

Ann Clin Psychiatry. 2008 Apr-Jun;20(2):97-107. doi: 10.1080/10401230802017092.


Background: To write an up-to-date review paper on catatonia using published literature.

Methods: This review involved a search using the terms "catatonia," "stupor," "catatonic schizophrenia" and "catalepsy" in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the Medline database and EMBASE and PsychINFO. Additional use was made of these databases in searching for randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses, cohort studies, case-control studies, case series, case reports and reviews.

Results: Available evidence indicates that catatonia is a common neuropsychiatric syndrome characterized by the presence of various motor signs and symptoms. The underlying pathophysiologic-mechanisms points to a heterogeneous group of etiologies. Current classifications are based on the type of presentation and the duration of symptoms; agitated versus retarded and acute versus chronic. Available data supports the efficacy of benzodiazepines and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in the treatment of this condition, but the treatment response is limited by the chronicity of symptoms.

Conclusions: Catatonia is a common disorder that occurs in a wide variety of psychiatric, neurological and medical conditions. At the current time, there is sufficient evidence to consider it as a specific nosologic syndrome with different subtypes and treatment responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Catatonia* / classification
  • Catatonia* / diagnosis
  • Catatonia* / drug therapy
  • Catatonia* / etiology
  • Humans