Catatonia in children and adolescents: New perspectives

Schizophr Res. 2018 Oct:200:56-67. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2017.07.028. Epub 2017 Jul 25.


Introduction: Catatonia is a rare and severe psychomotor condition in children and adolescents. In the current report, we aimed to review the recent literature.

Method: Using a PRISMA approach, we searched MEDLINE between 1982 and 2017 using the keywords 'CATATONIA' and 'CHILD' or 'ADOLESCENT'. In total, we reviewed 130 reports (controlled study, N=4; clinical chart, N=23; case report, N=54; and editorial/review, N=42).

Results: Several aspects seem to be age specific: (1) although the clinical presentation resembles that in adults, some symptoms are important in children and adolescents (e.g., psychomotor regression). (2) Associated disorders are similar to that found in adults; however, schizophrenia is more frequently observed than mood disorder. Additionally, a history of neurodevelopmental disorders maybe encountered. (3) Morbidity and mortality are among the worst in child psychiatry. (4) Underlying organic conditions are highly prevalent (>20% of the cases), and their search is warranted because some diagnoses may result in specific treatments (e.g., immune-suppressor therapy for autoimmune conditions). (5) Symptomatic approaches - high dose of benzodiazepines and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) - are as efficient in children or adolescents as they are in adults, but this finding needs to be acknowledged because a resistance against the use of ECT or high-dose medication exists among child psychiatrists.

Discussion: Recent advances in child and adolescent catatonia research have offered major improvements in understanding catatonia and in new therapeutic opportunities. The syndrome is rare, but these advances need to be acknowledged in order to direct patients to centers that have developed a specific expertise.

Keywords: Adolescence; Catatonia; Childhood; Electroconvulsive therapy.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Catatonia* / diagnosis
  • Catatonia* / epidemiology
  • Catatonia* / physiopathology
  • Catatonia* / therapy
  • Child
  • Humans