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catatonia(kăt'ətō`nēə), mental state generally characterized by statuesque posturing, muscular immobility, mutism, and apparent stupor. The muscles are held in a pliant state called waxy flexibility, and the catatonic person obediently permits himself to be rearranged into awkward positions that he may subsequently hold for hours. Another form of catatonia involves continuous incoherent shouting, psychomotor agitation, and a violent destructiveness which can lead to collapse and death if untreated. Loss of memory or intellect is not necessarily implied: catatonic patients often display excellent memory of their surroundings during the catatonic state. In recent years, drug therapy has been helpful in the avoidance of catatonic disturbances, and the appearance of catatonia is now quite rare. Described by Karl Kahlbaum (1874) as catatonia, the term was subsumed under Eugen BleulerBleuler, Eugen
, 1857–1939, Swiss psychiatrist. He taught (1898–1927) at the Univ. of Zürich, serving concurrently as director of Zürich's Burghölzi Asylum.
..... Click the link for more information. 's concept of schizophreniaschizophrenia
, group of severe mental disorders characterized by reality distortions resulting in unusual thought patterns and behaviors. Because there is often little or no logical relationship between the thoughts and feelings of a person with schizophrenia, the disorder has
..... Click the link for more information. in 1911. It has recently been classified as catatonic schizophrenia by the American Psychiatric Association.
or catatonic syndrome, a mental disorder dominated by impairment of motor activity.
Catatonia is a syndrome in schizophrenia and in psychoses resulting from poisoning, infection, or organic brain lesions. There are two alternating phases: stupor and excitement. In catatonic stupor, the tone of the skeletal muscles increases to the point where the patient remains frozen in any position, however uncomfortable, in which he is placed (catalepsy). The rigidity may reach the extremes of muscular tension: stupor with the extremities drawn close to the abdomen and the head bent, that is, the fetal position. The facial expression is frozen and the patient remains completely mute. External stimuli (for example, pain) or even extraordinary circumstances (fire, earthquake) do not prompt the patient to protect himself. Any attempt to change the position of a person in a deep stupor will induce muscular resistance.
Catatonic excitement may be bizarre and pathetic (the patients behave foolishly, ranting, singing, and striking affected poses) or impulsive, frantic, and aggressive. The mind of catatonics may stay clear or become clouded. Catatonia is relieved through the treatment of the causative disease.