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Catatonia: Treatment and prognosis

M Justin Coffey, MD
Section Editors
Peter P Roy-Byrne, MD
Stephen Marder, MD
Deputy Editor
David Solomon, MD


Catatonia is a behavioral syndrome marked by an inability to move normally, which can occur in the context of many psychiatric and general medical disorders [1]. Prompt treatment of catatonia with benzodiazepines or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), as well as treatment of the underlying cause, generally leads to remission of catatonia. However, failure to recognize and properly treat catatonia can lead to poor outcomes; malignant catatonia in particular can be fatal.

This topic reviews the treatment and prognosis of catatonia. The epidemiology, clinical features, assessment, underlying disorders, diagnosis, and differential diagnosis are discussed separately. (See "Catatonia in adults: Epidemiology, clinical features, assessment, and diagnosis".)


Catatonia is a behavioral syndrome marked by an inability to move normally, and can occur in patients with underlying psychiatric (eg, autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorders, psychotic disorders, and unipolar major depression) and general medical disorders. The syndrome is marked by heterogeneous signs that are observed or elicited (table 1 and table 2); the most common are immobility, rigidity, mutism, posturing, excessive motor activity, stupor, negativism, staring, and echolalia [1-3].

Subtypes of catatonia are based upon the specific nature of the movement disturbance and other associated features [1]. The three principal forms in order of incidence are:

Retarded – Mutism, inhibited movement, posturing, rigidity, negativism, and staring

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 22, 2017.
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