, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 517-528

Catatonia in autistic disorder: A sign of comorbidity or variable expression?

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Catatonia, once solely attributed to schizophrenia, is now thought to be associated with many disorders. Autistic disorder shares some symptoms with catatonia, namely, mutism, echopraxia/echolalia, and stereotypies. Catatonia in autism may therefore be a variant of the autistic condition. However, organic deficits and psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder, have also been linked with the manifestation of catatonia. Individuals with autism presenting with these comorbid conditions may therefore be at increased risk for catatonia. Little is written of the association of autism and catatonia to clarify the possibility of catatonia as a variant or a sign of a comorbid condition. The authors discuss three autistic patients and suggest specific etiologies for the symptoms of catatonia which presented in these cases. The therapeutic and diagnostic importance of comorbid disorders in autism is stressed.

This work was supported in part by the Wisniewski fellowship of the Office of Mental Retardation of the State of New York and the Alex Kunin Fund. The authors thank the parents of the affected individuals for their assistance in data gathering, the Twin Cities Society for Children and Adults with Autism for their support of research in autism in Minnesota, Pattianne Gumatz for project coordination, and especially Lois Laitinen for expert manuscript preparation.