Catatonia in autism: Implications across the life span

Angelina Kakooza-Mwesige, Lee E. Wachtel, Dirk M. Dhossche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Background: There is increasing evidence that catatonia is an important source of impairment in adolescents and adults with autism. Aim: Review of the evaluation, diagnosis, differential diagnosis, and treatment of catatonia in autism. Method: Presentation and discussion of a case-vignette spanning early childhood to adulthood. Results: Autistic and catatonic symptoms overlap, yet catatonia is diagnosable in about one of seven adolescents and young adults with autism. Case-reports suggest that benzodiazepines and electroconvulsive therapy are effective treatments in the acute and maintenance phase for people with autism who develop catatonia. Conclusions: Catatonia should be assessed in people with autism when there is an obvious and marked deterioration in movement, vocalizations, pattern of activities, self-care, and practical skills. Benzodiazepines and electroconvulsive therapy are favored options for acute and maintenance treatment in these cases. Further studies on the possible biological-genetic overlap between autism and catatonia would be helpful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-335
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008


  • Autism
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Catatonia
  • Classification
  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Pervasive developmental disorders
  • Psychosis
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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