Background: To determine the motor characteristics of chronic catatonia, catatonia and other motor disorders were systematically rated in a long-term hospitalized sample.
Method: Chronically hospitalized psychiatric inpatients (N = 42) with a clinical diagnosis of catatonic schizophrenia (295.2X) were rated for catatonia with a novel 23-item catatonia rating scale, and for parkinsonism, dyskinesia and akathisia using standard rating scales with scale-based criteria for case definition.
Results: Catatonia was the sole motor syndrome in nine cases (21%), co-existed with parkinsonism in five (12%), tardive dyskinesia in four (10%), and both parkinsonism and tardive dyskinesia in 10 (24%). There was no correlation between total scores across the four rating scales. 'Rigidity' was the sole catatonic sign which overlapped with other scales. The symptom profile of catatonia in this chronic sample was similar to previous reports based on acutely ill patients.
Conclusion: Catatonia is distinguishable from other motor disorders in chronic psychiatric patients using the 23-item catatonia rating scale. The features of chronic catatonia are described, and the distribution of catatonic signs is similar for chronic and acute catatonia.