Catatonia in obsessive-compulsive disorder: Etiopathogenesis, differential diagnosis, and clinical management

Leonardo F. Fontenelle, Edward C. Lauterbach, Leonardo L. Telles, Marcio Versiani, Fábio H. Porto, Mauro V. Mendlowicz

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OBJECTIVE: We describe the case of a patient who developed an episode of catatonia during the course of her life-long obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and discuss issues related to the etiopathogenesis, differential diagnosis, and therapeutic management of this association. BACKGROUND: Catatonia is conventionally considered a heterogeneous syndrome of motor dysregulation characterized by mutism, immobility, negativism, posturing (catalepsy), stereotypies, and echophenomena. The relationship between OCD and catatonia is still misunderstood and poses significant challenges to the diagnosis and treatment of patients with both conditions. METHOD: Naturalistic follow-up of a single case. RESULTS: A patient with OCD developed catatonia in concert with deteriorating mood, thought, and behavior. This atypical clinical presentation of individuals with OCD and the list of differential diagnosis raised during the patient's clinical assessment are discussed on 3 different levels: symptomatic presentation, comorbidity pattern, and pharmacodynamic mechanisms involved. CONCLUSIONS: The development of a systematic therapeutic plan for patients with OCD and comorbid catatonia includes: the fine-tuning of the antiobsessional treatment; management of comorbid disorders that may engender catatonia; prompt discontinuation, and subsequent slow reintroduction of drugs deemed to trigger toxic reactions or to worsen comorbid disorders and, ultimately, the catatonia; and the implementation of specific anticatatonia measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-24
Number of pages4
JournalCognitive and Behavioral Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Case report
  • Catatonia
  • Drug treatment
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

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