Acute Catatonia on Medical Wards: A Case Series

Elisabeth Doran; John D. Sheehan


J Med Case Reports. 2018;12(206) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: Catatonia is a behavioral syndrome which presents with an inability to move normally. It is associated with mood disorders and schizophrenia, as well as with medical and neurological conditions. It is an expression of the severity of the underlying condition.

The awareness of catatonia among general medical doctors and even psychiatrists is poor. It is often seen as an historical diagnosis. Because of this, catatonia is often not recognized. If patients in catatonic states are not diagnosed, their condition is likely to progress with a risk of increased morbidity and potentially fatal outcomes.

Case presentation: We present a case series of three acutely unwell, frail, elderly medical patients (a 65-year-old Irish woman, a 75-year-old Irish woman, and a 68-year-old Irish woman) with a background of longstanding well-controlled psychiatric illnesses, who developed acute catatonia while being treated for medical conditions in a general medical in-patient setting.

Conclusions: Catatonia is common in acute medical settings but is underdiagnosed due to the low awareness of the condition among both general medical doctors and psychiatrists. Within a short time period, we diagnosed and successfully treated three acutely unwell patients in acute medical settings. We would like to increase the awareness of catatonia among medical doctors.