Catatonia: a guide for clinicians

by Dr Vijay Gill and Dr Jordi Serra-Mestres


Last updated: January 2020


Catatonia, in its modern conceptualisation, has an unusual and interesting history dating back to the 19th century. For much of its existence it was thought of as a subtype of schizophrenia and it has only relatively recently been understood as a diagnostic entity in itself.


Perhaps in part due to this history, but also because of its sparse featuring in training curricula and in psychiatric literature until very recently, it is still poorly recognised and, as a result, not treated by most clinicians. Its diagnosis is important because it can be successfully treated; when left untreated, it can lead to serious medical complications and even death.


Catatonia is relatively common among a diverse range of psychiatric, neurological and general medical conditions, and so it should be of interest to psychiatrists working in any clinical setting.


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