Monday, July 26, 2010

Medical Mondays: A Tale of Two C's


Happy Monday! Erica from Chapter by Chapter had a great question of what the difference was between being catatonic and being in a coma.

The words "catatonic" is thrown around in conversation all the time. But what does it really mean?

A person with catatonia can exhibit several different symptoms, such as:
-bizarre posturing
-waxy flexibility (staying in awkward positions when placed in them by other people)
-purposeless resistance to commands or being moved
-repetitive, meaningless actions or spoken phrases
-echolalia, or repeating phrases spoken to them
-echopraxia, or copying other people's gestures

Catatonic persons may maintain rigid postures for hours, and ignore external stimuli. There is another form, called catatonic excitement, in which the person exhibits constant, hyperactive activity.

Catatonic schizophrenia is a subtype of schizophrenia, but catatonia can also be seen in other psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.

Medically, it can be seen in encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), drug overdose, autoimmune disorders, and neuroleptic malignant syndrome.

So. What's the difference between catatonia and a coma?

A coma is a state where the person is deeply unconscious and cannot be awoken. There's one huge difference. Catatonic patients are awake when exhibiting these symptoms.

Also, the causes of coma are exclusively medical, rather than psychiatric, such as head trauma, overdose, stroke, a low oxygen insult, amongst others.

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice!

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at


All I ask in return is that you become a follower of my blog and post a link on your blog when I post. Easy peasy.

Also, don't forget to check out Mental Health Mondays at Laura's Blog!

43 comments:

Abby said...

Very informative! And both are such dreadful conditions.

Aubrie said...

I didn't know there was a difference! Now I'll use the words more wisely. Thank you!

Candyland said...

I learn so much over here! And it's morning! Something I don't like to do in the morning!

lbdiamond said...

Usually before I have coffee, I am in a catatonic state! ;)

Great post, Lydia!

Faith said...

I agree with the above commenter... before coffee, I'm rather catatonic as well ;)

I had no idea there's a difference. My goodness, how do you come up with these questions? I love coming over here and learning all these medical-related things! Saves me from pestering my sister-in-law constantly with medical-related questions... haha.

Jaydee Morgan said...

Very interesting. I always learn something here on Mondays :)

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the clarification.

Catatonic excitement? I think I know a few persons with this undiagnosed condition.

Matthew Rush said...

Catatonia always makes me think of that movie Awakenings with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams.

Carol Kilgore said...

I love Medical Monday!

aspiring_x said...

catatonia always makes me think of patch adams... what's with robin willams and movies with catatonic people in it

Munk said...

Purposeless resistance to commands? I could be catatonic for days without anyone noticing.

Joanne said...

The beauty of your medical posts is that can actually inspire writing with their thoughtful information brought to a storyline.

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

Great info for those catatonic characters.

Talli Roland said...

A great Medical Monday as always, Lydia - thanks!

Taryn Tyler said...

I love your title for this post. :D

Stephanie Thornton said...

Very informative- I used to tell my students about catatonic schizophrenia when I taught psychology.

I thought of your Medical Mondays the other day- I had to kill a character via a knife to their throat. It was um... rather bloody.

Jemi Fraser said...

I didn't know that! Really interesting - thanks so much :)

Liza said...

Always learning here...

Mayowa said...

Catatonic is yet another example of words I use without knowing their true meaning.

Thanks for the schooling.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Hi! Great post! I have a question :o) Is it possible to be shot in the head, survive, lose all long term memory, but still function like normal, and retain all short term memory from rehabilitation onward?

patti said...

WOW! What a service! I've got an MD friend helping me with my WIP, Reclaiming Lily, but if that source dries up, you'll be next in line!!
Can we only buzz in on Monday???LOL
Blessings,
Patti

Alexandra Crocodile said...

catatonic is a new word for me alltogether, I must admit *shameful* - but now I've leart something new today! Yay:)

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Ooh brain overload. lol. Fantastic information though, as always. :)

Lydia Kang said...

Hey AA,
Hmm, that's a good one. Will tackle that next week!

Terri Tiffany said...

As a former mental health counselor, I actually knew this one!:)

Susan Fields said...

I've heard the term "catatonic" but never knew what it meant or what conditions caused it. Thanks for the great information!

notesfromnadir said...

Thank your for this -- quite fascinating. I chuckled at the term "waxy flexibility" as I've not seen that before. I didn't realize how many dimensions catatonia had.

Kelly said...

Another informative, interesting post, Lydia!

Vicki Rocho said...

I didn't know there was a difference! Thanks! We'll all have honorary medical degrees by the time you're done educating us!

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Lydia,
This post is great timing for me because I'm just brainstorming my next book and it involves a person in a coma. Thanks so much! :)

Amy

Rachna Chhabria said...

Lydia..thanks for this informative post. It cleared up the confusion about the two dreadful and depressive conditions. I had seen plenty of movies where coma patients are depicted as vegetables.

Culture Served Raw said...

Love your blog ..it prevents me from any potentially destructive mistakes! haha

Jen said...

I love Erica!!!! What a great question as well!!! I love Medical Mondays!!! Maybe one day I'll use this information!

PS stop by my blog to see what Stella looks like!!! I'll be hosting a blog fest soon for everyone to do this as well and I hope you join!

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

Yay! I got my own Medical Monday! Thank you so much for the very helpful information. I'm not sure which of these my character will go into though, not because of the information you gave me, loud and clear there. I'm just not sure which would work best for the story line.
Sigh.
But now at least I know the difference! Thank you so so much. I will be "plugged in" soon and back on the blogs as usual.
One last thing if you're able to answer. How is a catatonic state treated...how long can it last, and how do they get fed or go to the bathroom. This would be the not so hyper kind I'm askin about.
If you're able to clarify that I will love you forever ever!
Thanks Lydia your the best!

MT said...

I thought catatonic was sort of like "spaced out". I had no idea it was so involved. Thanks for the info!
Have a great week. :)

Phoenix said...

I always learn the coolest stuff when I visit your blog... ;)

Hope you're having a lovely week!

Sandy Shin said...

Thank you! These are such fascinating information. I've read a lot of books utilizing coma as a plot device, but less so catatonic.

Lydia Kang said...

Hey Erica!
Your follow up question got more detailed than I could handle, so I did what any internist would do in a situation like this...I called a consult!
I asked Laura Diamond (of Mental Health Mondays fame) and here is her response (summarized).

The duration is variable...depending on the severity, people may be incontinent or actually can toilet if brought to the bathroom...the catatonia can vary by day or hour too. Some will talk fine in the morning, but may be completely mute by afternoon. They can be very still or very agitated & engage in regressed behaviors like smearing feces, etc. Eating is possible--they might eat constantly, but may not speak and have agitated behaviors like smearing feces and urinating on the floor constantly. Of course, fluid & eletrolyte status is monitored--IVs may be necessary...

Treatment includes antipsychotics--injection, by mouth, or dissolveable...ECT(electroconvulsive therapy aka shock treatment) is a treatment too.

Hope this helps!

Thanks Laura! You rock!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I have sooooo missed your blog, Lydia! You are brilliant! :-)

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Awesome! Looking forward to it! :o) xx

Heather said...

That's so interesting. I'd never heard of catatonic excitement!

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

Okay so my internet was down and I couldn't wait to see if you had gotten back to my additional question. AH! I feel bad that you had to do a little more research than usual :( but I'm so glad you did cause it seals the deal on which state I am puttin my characters in. I don't think I can write a fecal smearing scene at all. Thank you SOOOO much! You're the best! (((((hugs))))

Janna Qualman said...

Lydia, I'm wondering if you'd be comfortable answering some more questions about comas for me? I've a character in my current WIP who's sustained a head injury, and there are some (general) things I need to understand about a comatose condition. Would you mind if I compiled a list of questions for you?

If you've the time, please e-mail me at jannawritesATyahooDOTcom. I tried to access your e-mail address from your Blogger profile, but Outlook gave me fits. :(

Thank you!

 
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