Treatment of schizophrenia with catatonic symptoms: A narrative review

Stanley N. Caroff, Gabor S. Ungvari, Gábor Gazdag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Catatonia is a neuropsychiatric syndrome consisting of psychomotor abnormalities caused by a broad range of disorders affecting brain function. While the nosological status of catatonia is no longer restricted to a subtype of schizophrenia in standardized diagnostic systems, the character, course, and clinical significance of catatonia in people with schizophrenia remain unclear. Evidence suggests that catatonia could be a nonspecific state-related phenomenon, a fundamental core symptom dimension of schizophrenia, or a subcortical variant of schizophrenia. Either way, the validity of catatonia in schizophrenia is clinically significant only insofar as it predicts prognosis and response to treatment. Most contemporary clinical trials of antipsychotics have targeted schizophrenia as an overly broad unitary psychosis neglecting any differential response defined by phenomenology or course. However, early naturalistic studies showed that catatonia predicted poor response to first-generation antipsychotics in chronic schizophrenia and case reports cautioned against the risk of triggering neuroleptic malignant syndrome. More recent studies suggest that second-generation antipsychotics, particularly clozapine, may be effective in schizophrenia with catatonic symptoms, while small randomized controlled trials have found that the short-term response to ECT may be faster and more significant. Based on available data, conclusions are limited as to whether antipsychotics are as effective and safe in acute and chronic schizophrenia with catatonic symptoms compared to other treatments and compared to schizophrenia without catatonia. Further studies of the pathophysiology, phenomenology, course and predictive value of catatonia in schizophrenia are worthwhile.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-274
Number of pages10
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


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