Catatonia and autism: a historical review, with implications for electroconvulsive therapy

J ECT. 2009 Mar;25(1):19-22. doi: 10.1097/YCT.0b013e3181957363.


Current autism research is historically separated from catatonia and other childhood psychotic disorders, although catatonia and autism share several common symptoms (mutism, echolalia, stereotypic speech and repetitive behaviors, posturing, grimacing, rigidity, mannerisms, and purposeless agitation). Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) effectively treats catatonia and catatonia-related conditions of intractable compulsions, tics, and self-injury in people with autism. We assess the incidence of catatonic symptoms in autism, examine emerging ECT indications in people with autism and related developmental disorders, and encourage ethical debate and legal-administrative action to assure equal access to ECT for people with autism.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / history*
  • Autistic Disorder / therapy
  • Catatonia / history*
  • Catatonia / therapy
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy / history*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans