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Treatments of Catatonia 

Treatments of Catatonia
Chapter:
Treatments of Catatonia
Author(s):

Edward Shorter

and Max Fink

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780190881191.003.0013
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date: 25 February 2021

For the many varieties of catatonia, all medical ministrations were applied with little success until sodium Amytal (amobarbital) was shown to be specifically successful beginning in the 1930s. Induced seizures as treatments for psychoses in 1930s were also found to effectively relieve catatonia. These treatments were so successful, and the incidence of catatonia so reduced, that questions were raised whether and why catatonia had disappeared. By 1980s, the benzodiazepines were offered as replacements for barbiturates. The specificity of benzodiazepines in relieving up to 80 percent of catatonia cases, with ECT successful in the remainder, encouraged belief that catatonia was best seen as a unique systemic medical illness. Solving the puzzle of catatonia is one of medicine’s unheralded treatment triumphs.

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