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Case series: catatonic syndrome in young people.

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  • 1Department of Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, La Salpétrière Hospital, Paris, France.


This article reviews all recent (1977-1997) reports on catatonic adolescents and summarizes the 9 consecutive cases seen at the authors' institution during the past 6 years. Catatonia occurs infrequently in adolescents (0.6% of the inpatient population), but it appears to be a severe syndrome in adolescents of both sexes. Diagnoses associated with catatonia are diverse, including in this series: schizophrenia (n = 6), psychotic depression (n = 1), mania (n = 1), and schizophreniform disorder (n = 1). Two patients had a previous history of pervasive developmental disorder. In the literature, catatonia was also reported in children with organic condition (e.g., epilepsy, encephalitis). Therapeutic management depends on the specific causes, but several points need to be stressed: (1) the frequency of neuroleptic-induced adverse effects; (2) the potential efficacy of sedative drugs on motor signs; (3) the possible use of electroconvulsive therapy; and (4) the necessity to manage family reactions and fears, which are frequent causes of noncooperation. It is concluded that catatonia is an infrequent but severe condition in young people. While symptomatology, etiologies, complications, and treatment are similar to those reported in the adult literature, findings differ with regard to the female-male ratio and the relative frequencies of associated mental disorders.

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