What Is Catatonic Behavior?

Meshell Powell

Catatonic behavior is described as either exaggerated motor movements or a loss of normal motor movements, often leading to muscle rigidity. This symptom is particularly common among those with certain psychiatric or physical disorders, including catatonic schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease. Electroconvulsive therapy and the use of prescription medications are typical treatment options for catatonic behavior. Any questions or concerns about catatonic behavior or the best form of treatment in an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Emotional disturbances are among the most common symptoms of catatonic behavior.
Emotional disturbances are among the most common symptoms of catatonic behavior.

An inability to move one or more parts of the body, a symptom known as physical immobility, is a common form of catatonic behavior. The patient may be completely unable to move or speak, or in some cases only one part of the body is affected. A person exhibiting catatonic behavior may seem to stare blankly into space and have little to no awareness of immediate surroundings.

Delusions and hallucinations may occur in many people who are afflicted with a catatonic disorder.
Delusions and hallucinations may occur in many people who are afflicted with a catatonic disorder.

Instead of being unable to move, catatonic behavior may manifest as an excessive amount of mobility. The patient may flail the arms wildly as if extremely excited or even make noises that are inappropriate to the situation. Extreme resistance is another form of catatonic behavior and may involve a refusal or inability to follow instructions or respond to external stimuli.

In some cases, catatonic behavior may include mimicking or copying the movement or speech of others. For instance, the patient may continuously repeat a word that someone else just said or may repeat a bodily movement over and over. Obsessive movements or routines are common symptoms of catatonic disorders as well.

Delusions and hallucinations may occur in many who are afflicted with a catatonic disorder, especially if the underlying cause is a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia. Movements may seem clumsy or uncoordinated, and the affected person may have trouble functioning in social situations such as work or school.

Emotional disturbances are among the most common symptoms of a catatonic disorder. The affected person may appear to be completely void of emotion, although there is usually an extreme amount of anxiety present. The patient may become socially isolated due to inappropriate behaviors and a lack of understanding on the part of the general public. Prescription medications or the use of electrical currents may be helpful in treating some catatonic behaviors. The supervising doctor or therapist can help the patient decide on the most appropriate treatment methods for an individual situation.

Catatonic behavior may be characterized by a loss of normal motor movements.
Catatonic behavior may be characterized by a loss of normal motor movements.

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