Catatonic depression is a form of depression in which the patient tends to be lethargic and stuporous. These patients do not move or speak for a prolonged period of time. Patient may not be able to perform simple task such as sitting up in bed or change his clothes. Once considered to be a separate mental disorder, it is now recognized as a part of other mental illness such as major depressive disorders, bipolar depression, schizophrenia, etc.
The reason associated with catatonic depression is imbalance in brain chemicals which are called neurotransmitters namely GABA, Dopamine and glutamate.Less than 1 percent of people suffering from depression may experience the state of mental stupor, a prominent symptoms of catatonia. Ideally the condition has to be treated as early as possible for a favorable outcome. Delay in treatment may cause difficulty in overcoming the symptoms.
What Causes Catatonic Depression?
The exact cause of catatonic depression is not known. However, researchers believe catatonia occurs due to imbalance in the brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Normally these brain chemicals make it easy for the brain cells to communicate with each other. Imbalance of certain neurotransmitters namely dopamine, gama aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate are associated to produce catatonic depression symptoms.
Many scientists also suggest that the condition may result from excessive fear. When a person gets feared he may respond in a way of fighting back or running away or just freeze. Catatonia responds with freezing. This means he freezes emotionally and physically. Catatonia symptoms are usually accompanied with other mental or medical illness.
Signs And Symptoms Of Catatonic Depression
Along with the symptoms of major depression disorders, person with catatonic depression may experience symptoms of catatonia. They are as follows:
- Abnormal movements, usually repetitive movements.
- People with catatonia are usually motionless. They are extremely rigid. They may not perform a simple task of getting up from bed or wearing a shirt or going to the toilet.
- Severe negativism which means does not respond to any form of stimuli or even oppose to a stimuli.
- He may hold rigid posture for a long period of time. Sometimes he may become exhausted with it.
- Rejects food and drinks.
- Imitates others movements.
- Mimics other person’s speech.
- Remain in uncomfortable posture for long period of time.
- They remain speechless for a prolonged period of time. Conversation with such people may become a difficult task.
In order for a person to be considered of suffering from catatonic depression, the patient must have two of the above symptoms along with those of major depression such as loss of interest in all activities, insomnia, fatigue, difficulty in concentrating, suicidal thoughts etc.
How To Treat Catatonic Depression?
Catatonic depression is difficult to treat, but if it is detected in its early stage treatment has promising results. In order to treat the condition the basic cause of depression has to be explored and addressed. Medications are usually used for the treatment. A group of drugs called benzodiazepines are used to treat the condition. This class of drugs increases the effect of GABA neurotransmitters. With balance of GABA the recovery is remarkable. The symptoms reduce and patient starts functioning normally.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is considered far superior and effective therapy for treating patients with catatonic depression. In this therapy a controlled electric current is passed through the brain for few seconds with the help of electrodes attached to ECT machine. It triggers mild seizures. The therapy is performed under general anesthesia.