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November 2009

The Catatonia Syndrome: Forgotten but Not Gone

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, State University of New York at Stony Brook (Dr Fink); and Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor (Dr Taylor).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(11):1173-1177. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.141

Catatonia is a motor dysregulation syndrome among psychiatric asylum patients that was delineated in 1874. The syndrome was so well characterized that within a few years its prevalence among psychiatric populations was reported from 6% to 38%, averaging 15% of hospitalized patients in the years since.1 In the mid–20th century, as psychiatric practice shifted from the asylum to the ambulatory clinic with an emphasis on psychotherapy and the prescription of psychotropic agents, the role of the medical examination was degraded and the recognition of catatonia languished.2 The perceived tight bond between catatonia and the diagnosis of schizophrenia led to the widespread assumption that catatonia is mainly a form of psychosis and is not appropriately classified elsewhere.3

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