The social stigma surrounding schizophrenia prevents many people from talking openly about their experiences. This is especially true when someone lives with catatonic schizophrenia, which can make them act unresponsive or agitated toward others. Some people might feel frightened or alarmed by this because they don’t understand what’s happening.
However, people with schizophrenia are not inherently dangerous or deserving of ostracization. By raising awareness about schizophrenia and how it affects people, more individuals will recognize that it is okay to talk about their condition and seek treatment for it.
Catatonic Schizophrenia: An Overview
Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that affects a person’s perception of reality. It can cause hallucinations, delusions, distorted thinking, and other unusual behaviors that impair overall functioning. It can be a debilitating disorder if left unaddressed and may require professional treatment to manage.
Catatonic schizophrenia is a subtype of schizophrenia in which someone regularly enters catatonic states. These states can last anywhere from a few hours to several days, and they typically involve some degree of lost awareness and/or motor function. For instance, an individual in a catatonic state may appear to have “shut down” even if they retain consciousness.
Currently, the cause for schizophrenia and its subtypes is unknown. Leading medical experts believe the answer could lie in risk factors like genetics, brain development, external stressors, and pregnancy complications.
In addition, recent data suggests that the use of drugs and alcohol can increase someone’s risk of developing schizophrenia. For example, one study found that individuals who abuse alcohol are more than three times as likely to develop schizophrenia. Chronic substance misuse can also worsen symptoms of catatonic schizophrenia in particular.
Catatonic Schizophrenia vs. Catatonia
In clinical settings, the term “catatonic schizophrenia” is no longer used as frequently as it once was. This is because of changes made by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
The DSM regarded catatonic schizophrenia as a distinct subtype of schizophrenia up until the publication of its fifth and most recent edition. In its updated passages on schizophrenia, it now identifies catatonic symptoms as being part of a separate condition called catatonia.
In other words, instead of having catatonic schizophrenia, someone may be diagnosed with schizophrenia and catatonia. This change reflects the fact that schizophrenia can occur without symptoms of catatonia, and catatonia can be present in other medical conditions as well.
5 Signs You Have Catatonic Schizophrenia
Below are five symptoms people with schizophrenia often experience when in a catatonic state. If you repeatedly exhibit any of the following for hours or days at a time, you may have catatonic schizophrenia.
1. You Experience Impaired Mobility
Catatonic schizophrenia often makes people fall into a trancelike state called catalepsy, in which their limbs become rigid and unmoving. If someone else moves their limbs for them, they may hold the new position, a symptom referred to as waxy flexibility. Likewise, someone in a catatonic state may hold their limbs up at odd angles against gravity, which is called posturing.
2. You Lose Awareness of Your Surroundings
One of the most common symptoms of catatonic schizophrenia is stupor. If someone retains consciousness but loses their ability to perceive or recognize stimuli around them, they may be experiencing stupor. They will appear to ignore any attempt to interact with them, and even painful or disruptive stimuli like pinching will only temporarily arouse them from stupor.
3. You Repeat Words or Movements of Others
People with catatonic schizophrenia often find themselves mimicking the words, phrases, movements, or behaviors of other people. When someone repeats speech, it is referred to as echolalia. Similarly, when someone mirrors another person’s movements, it is called echopraxia. They may not realize or be able to control their echoing behaviors.
4. You Do Not Speak
Another symptom of schizophrenia with catatonia is mutism. Someone exhibiting mutism does not speak, or speaks very little. There is an absence of verbal response even if they are addressed directly. Furthermore, if someone can speak during this time, their words may be slow or halting.
5. You Exhibit Hyperkinetic Behavior
While many people associate catatonic states with stillness and unresponsiveness, they can also take a hyperkinetic form. This means that someone could show increased movement or notable agitation. For instance, they may pace relentlessly or use exaggerated, impulsive gestures. These individuals may appear “sped up” and partake in self-harming behaviors.
Catatonic Schizophrenia Treatment
Thankfully, while catatonic schizophrenia can cause severe impairments in someone’s day-to-day life, it is not an untreatable condition. Using a combination of effective treatment methods like psychotherapy and medication, people with schizophrenia can learn vital coping skills to help them manage their symptoms.
For example, some of the first-line treatment options identified by medical professionals dedicated to researching the diagnosis, treatment, and pathophysiology of schizophrenia include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
- Medication-assisted treatment (primarily using benzodiazepines)
Using the above treatment options, individuals with catatonic schizophrenia can learn to challenge their distorted thoughts and identify when they are harmful. Combined with grounding techniques, healthy communication skills, and a re-established sense of self, they can return to normal, daily living even with schizophrenia.
Inpatient Treatment for Catatonic Schizophrenia
Springbrook Behavioral Hospital is a mental health treatment facility that helps adults with mood disorders, depressive disorders, and other types of mental illness. If you are looking for catatonic schizophrenia treatment, we offer several different programs that can provide the level of care you need.
For those experiencing severe catatonic episodes that put themselves or others in harm’s way, we offer an intensive treatment program. Our intensive treatment team is trained and equipped to receive individuals in crisis. They work quickly to stabilize patients’ mental states and determine the best course of action to mitigate future episodes.
People who don’t need as intensive of care may investigate our partial hospitalization program (PHP) instead. During this program, they will visit the facility to attend therapy sessions five days a week. This gives patients ample exposure to our recovery tools, and by allowing them to return home at nights and on weekends, they are able to put what they learn into immediate practice.
If you are someone who developed catatonic schizophrenia as a result of using drugs and alcohol, you may want to consider our dual diagnosis program. It treats individuals with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health issues. By attending a dual diagnosis program, you can learn how to recover from and avoid substances that worsen catatonia.
Get Professional Support Today
No matter what obstacles you face, you can learn to manage your symptoms at Springbrook Behavioral Hospital. To learn more about how we can treat catatonic schizophrenia, call our admissions experts at 352-600-3288 or submit a confidential contact form online.
Our team will gladly answer any questions and assist you in the enrollment process when you decide you’re ready to get help. It is never too late to learn how to live with schizophrenia and catatonia.