Catatonia is hidden in plain sight among different pediatric disorders: a review article

Pediatr Neurol. 2010 Nov;43(5):307-15. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2010.07.001.


Over the past two decades, catatonia has been better demarcated in adult psychiatry as a unique syndrome that consists of specific motor signs with a characteristic response to benzodiazepines and electroconvulsive therapy. Pediatric catatonia is considered rare, but may be underdiagnosed, and hence undertreated. Discussed here are the current diagnostic criteria of catatonia in individual cases of children and adolescents diagnosed with childhood disintegrative disorder, Kleine-Levin syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, tic disorder, and autoimmune encephalitis, and the effects of benzodiazepines and electroconvulsive therapy. In these cases, catatonia resolved safely once it was recognized and treated properly. Children and adolescents presenting with these disorders should be systematically assessed for catatonia; when the presence of catatonia is confirmed, the use of benzodiazepines and electroconvulsive therapy should be considered. The occurrence of catatonia in such a wide range of child and adolescent disorders supports the view that pediatric catatonia is not so rare, that there are shared elements in the etiology, psychopathology, and pathophysiology of these disorders, and that catatonia is best classified as a unique neurobiologic syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Brain Diseases / complications
  • Catatonia / diagnosis
  • Catatonia / etiology*
  • Encephalitis
  • Hashimoto Disease / complications
  • Humans
  • Kleine-Levin Syndrome / complications*
  • Pediatrics*
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome / complications*
  • Tic Disorders / complications*


  • Benzodiazepines

Supplementary concepts

  • Hashimoto's encephalitis