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Katatonia: A New Conceptual Understanding of Catatonia and a New Rating Scale

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Niraj Ahuja


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Modern psychiatric nosologies separate catatonia along the lines of presumed etiology: bipolar, major depression, schizophrenia, and/or due to a general medical condition. Catatonic signs have always possessed significant diagnostic, therapeutic, and prognostic value. Kahlbaum’s description of this syndrome in his monograph “Katatonia” included careful documentation of phenomenology. Kahlbaum selected the term katatonia to describe “tension insanity.” He felt that the neuromotor signs were more important than the content of delusions (e.g. megalomania). While he felt that he was describing a unitary illness, he did identify mood disturbance, psychosis, and medical factors in this new illness. In modern times, the term catatonia has become limited to describe a specifier of neuropsychiatric illnesses. The authors of this article feel that the term katatonia should be used to describe a group of neuropsychiatric illnesses presenting with catatonic signs. This may prevent the misconception that “catatonia is schizophrenia” and improve the detection of katatonia in patients. Specifically, katatonia is also observed in mood disorders, general medical conditions, and pervasive developmental disorders. The literature also supports the view of Dr. Leo Kanner and his description for neuromotor and neuropsychiatric signs in autistic disorder. This scale is named in honor of Dr. Kanner. It was developed by the authors and includes some of Dr. Kanner’s core concepts. This paper will identify the clinical features of katatonia and introduce the KANNER scale (see APPENDIX 1) to improve conceptualization, detection, and measurement of this important clinical syndrome.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Carroll BT, Kirkhart R, Ahuja N, Soovere I, Lauterbach EC, Dhossche D, Talbert R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Psychiatry (Edgemont)

Year: 2008

Volume: 5

Issue: 12

Pages: 42-50

ISSN (electronic): 1550-5952

Publisher: Matrix Medical Communications