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What is catatonic schizophrenia?

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Quick Answer

Catatonic schizophrenia is a subtype of schizophrenia characterized by disturbances in movement, which may include a dramatic increase in activity, a dramatic decrease in activity or repetitive movements, according to PsychCentral. Patients may also exhibit unusual facial contortions or body positions.

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To receive a diagnosis of catatonic schizophrenia, the patient must meet the general criteria for schizophrenia as well as one or more behaviors characteristic of catatonic schizophrenia, confirms Psych Central. The first is mutism or stupor, a notable decrease in spontaneous activity or reaction to the surrounding environment. The second is excitement, motor activity not resulting from external stimuli that may appear to have no purpose. Another behavior is posturing, the voluntary maintenance of odd or inappropriate postures. Patients may exhibit a seemingly purposeless resistance to attempts or instructions to be moved. Patients may also respond by moving in the opposite direction.

Another characteristic behavior of catatonic schizophrenia is the assumption of a rigid posture when someone attempts to move the patient, according to Psych Central. Patients may also exhibit waxy flexibility, the maintenance of a position in which another person places them. Other symptoms may include the preservation of certain words and phrases and the automatic compliance to instructions. Patients may not receive a diagnosis for catatonic schizophrenia if their catatonic symptoms are temporary or don't dominate the clinical picture, and some patients may exhibit catatonic symptoms without schizophrenia.

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