Catalepsy involves a loss of voluntary motion, muscle rigidity, fixed posture, and decreased sensitivity to pain. It is a symptom of a number of conditions including epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, substance use, catatonia, schizophrenia, and as a side effect of some types of medication used to treat schizophrenia.
Catalepsy is not a distinct condition in and of itself but is instead a symptom of some types of nervous disorders and other conditions. Some of the conditions that may cause catalepsy include:
Decreased or slowed movement
Decreased muscle control
Decreased sensitivity to pain
Loss of muscle control
Rigid body posture
Slowed body functions
Waxy flexibility (limbs remain in the same position when moved)
A healthcare professional may acquire a full medical and social history as well as perform a physical exam in order to diagnose catalepsy.
During the physical exam, the healthcare professional may posture the individual’s extremity and observe how long the extremity takes to relax into its original position.
The healthcare professional may also order an electroencephalogram (EEG), which is used to measure the electrical activity of the brain, to rule out other neurological etiologies such as epilepsy.
Treatment of catalepsy is primarily focused on treating the underlying cause.
If the cause is due to medication toxicity, symptoms may wane once the medication has been ceased. Medications, such as benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants, zolpidem, carbamazepine, and muscle relaxants may prove to be effective in reducing the symptoms of catalepsy.
In addition, pharmacotherapy of Parkinson-induced catalepsy may include dopamine agonists (e.g., bromocriptine) and decarboxylase inhibitors (e.g., levodopa, carbidopa), among others.