Catatonia in patients with autism: Prevalence and management

Stefano Vicari, Luigi Mazzone, Valentina Postorino, Giovanni Valeri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although recent studies have shown that catatonia can occur in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), the overlap of the behavioral features between these disorders raises many diagnostic challenges. In fact, in clinical practice it is common to misinterpret catatonic symptoms, including mutism, stereotypic speech, repetitive behaviors, echolalia, posturing, mannerisms, purposeless agitation and rigidity, as features of ASDs. The current medical treatment algorithm for catatonia in ASDs recommends the use of benzodiazepines. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is indicated when patients are unresponsive, or insufficiently responsive, to benzodiazepines. Other pharmacological options are also described for the treatment of catatonic patients resistant to benzodiazepines and ECT, and there is evidence for the effectiveness of a psychological treatment, co-occurring with medical treatments, in order to support the management of these patients. In this article we provide a summary of studies exploring catatonia in ASDs and our clinical experience in the management and treatment of this syndrome through the presentation of three brief case studies. Moreover, we review the mechanisms underlying symptoms of catatonia in ASDs, as well as the diagnostic challenges, providing an outline for the management and treatment of this syndrome in this clinical population. © 2014 Springer International Publishing Switzerland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-215
Number of pages11
JournalCNS Drugs
Volume28
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords

  • Catatonic symptoms and autism

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