Catatonic schizophrenia is one of the subtypes of schizophrenia. In addition to losing touch with reality and exhibiting extremes of behavior, with this type of schizophrenia one may also appear in a daze or a coma-like status with an inability to speak, move or respond. The body may freeze in a certain position and remain like that for hours. In other cases, the individual may talk rapidly, appear incoherent and have purposeless movements. At times the individual may appear frenzied and make loud noises. During the acute attack, the individual is often unable to respond to any verbal commands. The person may mimic words or copy movements made by others. The only emotion present during catatonia is extreme anxiety.
Catatonic schizophrenia is very rare today because of better schizophrenia treatment. In fact, catatonia is very rarely seen with schizophrenia and more likely to appear with certain other physical and mental disorders.
Like most schizophrenics, catatonic schizophrenia individuals also lack emotion, have inappropriate emotions, anger outbursts and live solitary lives. These people may also continue to have delusions and hallucinations but the intensity is less than the other subtypes of schizophrenia.
Catatonic episodes usually last less than 24 hours but they may also last several weeks if no treatment is undertaken. The cause of this subtype of schizophrenia remains unknown but has been linked to both genetics and the environment.
Even though the exact cause of catatonic schizophrenic is not known, certain factors may increase the risk of developing this type of schizophrenia. This includes:
- Having a family history of mental illness
- Having been exposed to a viral infection during pregnancy
- Stressful childhood
- Poor prenatal nutrition
- Abuse of various illicit drugs
Catatonic schizophrenia tends to present in the second decade of life and is slightly more common in men. Catatonic schizophrenia is a life-long disorder and requires treatment even when the condition has stabilized.
The treatment of catatonic schizophrenia is combination of cognitive psychotherapies and medications. A variety of medications are used to treat this disorder including benzodiazepines for anxiety, antidepressants and antipsychotics. Some individuals may also benefit from ECT. During severe crises, hospitalization is often necessary.
Catatonic schizophrenia can be difficult to manage because many individuals are not in touch with reality and non compliance with therapy is common. It is important that one not use alcohol or drugs as these can worsen catatonia. Despite these difficulties, catatonic schizophrenia generally has a better prognosis than other types of schizophrenia, as long as the individual remains compliant with the treatment.
If treatment is neglected, many individuals develop self-destructive behaviors, attempt suicide and have very poor hygiene. Over time, the disorder leads to neglect of health, abuse of drugs, and family conflicts. Many individuals with this condition become victims of crime, face extreme poverty and eventually most end up with legal and financial difficulties.