catatonia (kătˌətōˈnēə) [key], mental state generally characterized by statuesque posturing, muscular immobility, mutism, and apparent stupor. The muscles are held in a pliant state called waxy flexibility, and the catatonic person obediently permits himself to be rearranged into awkward positions that he may subsequently hold for hours. Another form of catatonia involves continuous incoherent shouting, psychomotor agitation, and a violent destructiveness which can lead to collapse and death if untreated. Loss of memory or intellect is not necessarily implied: catatonic patients often display excellent memory of their surroundings during the catatonic state. In recent years, drug therapy has been helpful in the avoidance of catatonic disturbances, and the appearance of catatonia is now quite rare. Described by Karl Kahlbaum (1874) as catatonia, the term was subsumed under Eugen Bleuler's concept of schizophrenia in 1911. It has recently been classified as catatonic schizophrenia by the American Psychiatric Association.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.