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Catatonia Before Kahlbaum 

Catatonia Before Kahlbaum
Catatonia Before Kahlbaum

Edward Shorter

and Max Fink

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date: 07 March 2021

The symptoms of catatonia—stupor, staring, mutism, food refusal, grimacing, negativism, odd movements, rigidity, posturing, “waxy flexibility,” and stereotypies—have always existed. But they were described under different terms, such as catalepsy, acute delirium, hysteria, and “homesickness” and were not linked together as part of the same disorder. People once had a terrible fear of being buried alive, for example, dreading that stuporous catatonia might be misrecognized as death. Yet what people considered “demonic possession” has almost always been viewed in medicine as a group of legitimate illnesses—different illnesses with different treatments, such as catalepsy, ecstasy, stupor, tics, chorea, and melancholia.

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