Catatonia from the first descriptions to DSM 5

Catatonia dalle prime descrizioni al DSM 5

F. Luchini, N. Bartolommei, A. Benvenuti, M. Mauri, L. Lattanzi

U.O. Psichiatria, Dipartimento di Medicina Clinica e Sperimentale, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Pisana



This paper aims to provide an update to clinicians regarding the changes of the diagnostic criteria of catatonia in DSM 5.


The authors have made a review of the literature concerning catatonia using the keywords mentioned below; the various versions of DSM have been also consulted.


Although catatonia has historically been associated with schizophrenia, it occurs more frequently in conjunction with mood disorders or somatic diseases.

Therefore, since the fourth edition of the DSM, catatonia has been both a specifier for affective episodes and it has been possible to make diagnosis of catatonia due to a general medical condition.

In DSM 5 four changes have been made: 1) the catatonia is described in the whole manual, regardless of the condition which appears to be associated with, by the same type and number of criteria, 2) it is a specifier both of schizophrenia and affective episodes (the catatonic subtype of schizophrenia has been removed), 3) it is used as a specifier for other psychotic spectrum disorders, and 4) finally, there is the category “NOS” that allows the rapid diagnosis where the etiology is not immediately identifiable.


These changes will improve the recognition of catatonia within the various psychiatric disorders and they will facilitate the treatment.

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