What is Catatonia?

Catatonia is a serious psychological disorder characterized by periods of unresponsiveness and withdrawal from reality, referred to as “episodes.” People who suffer from catatonia may become unresponsive or have psycho-motor disturbances, which can include movements that alternate between rigidity and agitation. It is estimated that catatonia affects over 3 million people around the world.

Symptoms of Catatonia

The most common symptoms of catatonia can include:

  • A flat affect or no visible emotion
  • Stiff muscles with exaggerated posturing
  • Repetitive movements (stereotypies)
  • Lack of communication or minimal conversational language
  • Difficulties in swallowing, speaking, or eating
  • Slowed motor responses
  • Difficulty initiating and completing activities
  • Documentation of extreme negative mood and emotional responses

Causes of Catatonia

Catatonia can be caused by a variety of different conditions, including:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Infection
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Drug intoxication
  • Medication side effects
  • Brain injuries
  • Brain tumors
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Childbirth or postpartum issues
  • Sleep deprivation


In most cases, catatonia can be successfully treated with medications. Common medications for treating catatonia include antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Also, psychotherapy and supportive psychosocial interventions can help people coping with catatonia.

In some cases, other treatment options may be recommended such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, and even nutritional and lifestyle changes. These treatments can help people manage the physical and psychological symptoms associated with catatonia.