People with depression often having a very low mood and that condition can be called major depressive disorder (MDD). If your depression symptoms become severe, then your mental health condition will be accompanied by catatonia, which means you will be in a stage where you are no longer connected to this world.

The word catatonia consists of two Greek terms

  • Kata – which means “down”
  • Tonas – which means tension

You will come to know about the catatonic depression and its signs, symptoms, treatment options as well as how to fight with this condition in this article.

What do you mean by catatonic depression?

Remaining silent all the time and not connecting to this world for a long time are the signs of catatonic depression. It is one of the subtypes of depression. Generally, people who are suffering from catatonic depression does not want to leave their loneliness, and they are not attached to any emotions in the world. The ability to lead a normal life becomes difficult for a person with catatonic depression.

People who are suffering from this mental illness will be no longer connected to this world and their state of mind is completely different from the normal people. Because, this condition makes people remain calm, speechless, and motionless for a longer period of time. Initially, doctors or physicians categorized this condition in a separate mental illness, now this is no longer considered as a separate mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). It is considered as the subcategory of many mental illnesses, such as

What are the indicators of catatonic depression?

Thoughts of committing suicide, loss of interest in most activities, making suicide attempts, noticing abnormal changes in your body weight, always say no to eatables, abnormal movements, staying still, unable to make the decisions, rapid movements, difficulty thinking, a lack of speech, fatigue, a change in appetite, insomnia or difficulty getting sleep, experiencing headache while concentrating on your daily tasks, trouble getting out of bed, feelings of guilt, feelings of restlessness, a lack of speech, experiencing the feelings of shame, guilt, and worthlessness are the symptoms of catatonic depression.

People who are suffering from catatonic depression also experience feelings such as low or sad and these feelings considered as the classic depression symptoms. Adding to that, hopelessness also one of the symptoms of classic depression. Depression can affect a person’s

  • Appetite
  • Movements
  • Sleep levels
  • Concentration

What are the causes of catatonic depression?

No one knows the exact cause of catatonic depression, but there are some theories we need you to look at.

Many scientists strongly believe that the cause of catatonic depression in a person due to the decreased levels of feel-good chemicals in your brains such as endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. This mental illness occurs due to the sudden drop in the levels of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical in your brain and your emotions such as happiness will be decided by the dopamine. The more your brain release dopamine, the happier you are.

There are many factors that are contributing to depression. These include

  • Anyone in your family members is diagnosed with this mental illness
  • Sad events happened in your life such as the death of your family member, relationship problems, or other problems that are making your life so difficult
  • No responsiveness to some hormones in your brain due to the sudden changes in your brain functioning or structure
  • Many underlying medical conditions, like problems related to sleeping, chronic pain, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or chronic illness

People who are drug abusers, or addicted to alcohol can also have chances of getting depression. They need to stop drinking alcohol or avoid smoking in order to prevent the risk of this mental illness or they will be at greater risk of getting diagnosed with catatonic depression.

How to diagnose Catatonic depression in a person?

As you know, a person with catatonic depression does not respond to another person or the patient doesn’t show any interest in answering the physician questions. It will be difficult for your mental health provider to examine a patient who is suffering from catatonic depression. That is why your physician will ask a bunch of questions to your guardian or a loved one. your physician will ask questions to your loved one in order to find out the symptoms of your problem. The doctor also asks your guardian to how long your guardian has been observing the symptoms in you or are there any other reasons behind your problem.

Your physician will also try to find out any other medical conditions that you are suffering and that is contributing to this condition. For instance, the symptoms of many medical conditions are the same. The neuroleptic malignant syndrome occurs in a person due to the adverse reaction of antipsychotic drugs. These medical condition symptoms are the same as catatonic depression.

Your physician may also examine your brain and central nervous system. As there are chances of you are suffering from these symptoms due to brain tumors or any other medical conditions that are contributing to catatonic depression.

The doctor will also observe your posture, the way you are speaking, how you are reacting to the conversations, the emotions you are carrying while you are speaking with them, and watching your movements. They also try to know about all the facets of your life. That will give them a hint on how to give treatment to your problem or it will help your doctor to know the exact cause of your problem.

How to treat this mental illness?

There are many treatment options that are available to treat this condition. These include


These psychoactive drugs are the doctor’s first choice drugs to treat this condition. These medications can quickly ease the symptoms of catatonic depression. These include

  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle spasms

Benzodiazepines are highly addictive if the patient takes it for a long time. That is why your physician may recommend you to use these drugs for a shorter period of time but the usage of these psychotic drugs completely depends on the severity of your mental illness.

Electroconvulsive therapy

Catatonic depression can be treated by taking the electroconvulsive therapy and it is considered as the best suitable treatment option for this mental illness. In this therapy, the electrodes will be attached to your head in order to induce a seizure by sending electrical impulses to your brain.

Even though it is considered as the safe treatment for treating catatonic depression, still benzodiazepines are the primary treatment for preventing the catatonic symptoms. Doctors recommend this therapy only when benzodiazepines are failed to improve your mental health condition. Based on a study, it has been observed that electroconvulsive therapy showed effective results in treating all forms of catatonia depression.

Other treatment options

If the psychotic drugs or electroconvulsive therapy didn’t show any positive results, then your physician may suggest you try repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), or N-methyl-D-aspartate. In certain studies, it has been observed that N-methyl-D-aspartate showed positive results in treating this mental health condition

What are the complications?

People who are suffering from catatonia will be at a greater risk of complications if they don’t take the treatment or didn’t respond to the treatment. Giving treatment to this mental health condition is not an easy task for your physician. The patient has to experience many complications if they don’t receive the treatment.

Pneumonia, blood clots, contractures, malnutrition, shortening of muscles, dehydration, and decubitus ulcers are the possible complications associated with catatonic depression.

How to deal with someone who is suffering from catatonic depression?

Acute psychiatric care is needed for a person who is suffering from catatonic depression. If the guardian or the family members are unable to take care of the person, they can call the inpatient psychiatric center. Consult your physician or seek emergency help immediately if you think the person’s symptoms get worse.

If you observe that your family member or your friend is behaving weird or suffering from the symptoms of catatonic depression, take them to a primary care physician. He will refer to another specialist if your physician is unable to give treatment to that person.


This mental illness can become severe if you don’t receive the treatment at a proper time. In most of the cases, catatonic depression symptoms relieved by the electroconvulsive therapy and psychotic drugs belong to a class of benzodiazepines.

People who are suffering from catatonic depression might require patience as the treatment takes too much time in order to ease the symptoms of depression. It’s better to take the medications even after the symptoms are relieved but you have to consult your physician before you would like to make a decision. Your physician may help you to find the best solution for your problem. also, make small changes to your lifestyle like the following diet, going to the gym regularly and doing the exercises will make you feel good.


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