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National Schizophrenia Awareness Day on 25 July shines a light on the everyday challenges faced by hundreds of thousands of people living with a diagnosis of schizophrenia in the UK and millions more worldwide. It also looks at how we can tackle some of the stigma and discrimination surrounding this much-misunderstood illness. Therefore, we thought we could share some information about a lesser-known subtype of schizophrenia. 
 
Catatonic schizophrenia, which is a subtype of schizophrenia, is a severe mental illness that profoundly impacts an individual's ability to move, speak, and respond to their surroundings. It often leads to a state of extreme withdrawal and immobility, leaving both the individuals affected and their loved ones feeling helpless and distraught. In this blog, we delve into what catatonic schizophrenia is, its symptoms, potential causes, and the available treatment options. 
 
Understanding Catatonic Schizophrenia: 
 
Catatonic schizophrenia is characterized by an array of symptoms that severely impact a person's ability to function normally. These symptoms may include motor abnormalities such as immobility, repetitive movements, waxy flexibility, or adopting strange postures. Individuals may also display extreme resistance to instructions, stare into space for prolonged periods, or exhibit echolalia (repeating words or phrases). In some cases, catatonic schizophrenia can be accompanied by extreme emotional disarray, hallucinations, or delusions. 
 
Causes and Contributing Factors: 
 
The exact cause of catatonic schizophrenia remains unknown, with researchers suggesting a combination of genetic, brain chemistry, and environmental factors. Genetic predisposition, abnormal brain structure or function, imbalances in neurotransmitters like dopamine, and a history of trauma or substance abuse are believed to contribute to the development of this condition. 
Diagnosis and Differential Diagnosis: 
 
Diagnosing catatonic schizophrenia often involves a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation, where doctors assess symptoms, medical history, and conduct physical and psychological examinations. It is essential to differentiate catatonic schizophrenia from other conditions, as symptoms like catatonia can also occur in mood disorders, substance-induced conditions, or even medical illnesses. 
 
Treatment Approach: 
 
The treatment of catatonic schizophrenia usually involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and supportive care. Antipsychotic medications are often prescribed to manage symptoms, aiming to stabilize a person's mood, reduce hallucinations, and enhance cognitive functioning. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be considered in severe cases, where low electrical currents are used to induce controlled seizures that can alleviate symptoms. Additionally, psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioural therapy, helps individuals develop coping strategies, manage stress, and improve their overall quality of life. 
Support and Ongoing Management: 
 
Living with catatonic schizophrenia can present immense challenges for both individuals and their families. A strong support network plays a crucial role in managing the condition. Joining support groups or therapy sessions with professionals experienced in schizophrenia can offer a chance to share experiences, seek guidance, and learn from others who have faced similar challenges. It is crucial for loved ones to remain understanding, patient, and compassionate, as they play a vital role in providing support and fostering an environment of trust. 
 
In conclusion, catatonic schizophrenia is a complex and debilitating condition that affects an individual's ability to communicate and engage with the world around them, causing significant distress and impairment in their daily lives. Early intervention, accurate diagnosis, and a comprehensive treatment plan can greatly improve one's chances of managing their symptoms and leading a fulfilling life. By creating awareness, educating ourselves, and supporting those affected, we can contribute to breaking down the barriers and stigma surrounding catatonic schizophrenia. 
 
Glossary of terms: 
 
Catatonic schizophrenia: A subtype of schizophrenia characterized by periods of catatonia, which is marked by extreme motor disturbances such as immobility, rigidity, repetitive movements, and bizarre postures. People with this condition may exhibit a lack of responsiveness and may alternate between periods of hyperactivity and near-unconsciousness. 
 
Schizophrenia: A chronic and severe mental disorder characterized by abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and behaviours. Individuals with schizophrenia may experience hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, social withdrawal, and cognitive impairments. It typically starts in late adolescence or early adulthood and requires long-term management. 
 
Immobility: In the context of mental health, immobility refers to a state of physical and mental inactivity or rigidity. It can manifest as a symptom in various mental disorders, such as catatonic schizophrenia, where individuals may hold unusual postures or remain completely still for extended periods. 
 
Repetitive movements: Actions that are repeated excessively and without a clear purpose or goal. In mental health, repetitive movements can be associated with conditions like autism spectrum disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder, where individuals engage in repetitive motor behaviours such as hand-flapping, body rocking, or finger tapping. 
 
Waxy flexibility: A rare phenomenon observed in some individuals with catatonic schizophrenia, where their limbs can be manipulated into different positions and will remain in those positions without resistance even if they are physically uncomfortable or unnatural. It is called "waxy" because the movements resemble bending or moulding of soft wax. 
 
Echolalia: A repetitive speech behaviour characterized by the immediate and automatic repetition or imitation of words or phrases spoken by another person. It is often seen in conditions like autism spectrum disorder and certain language disorders. Echolalia can be immediate (repeating right after hearing the words) or delayed (repeating after a short delay). 
 
Genetic predisposition: The increased likelihood or susceptibility of developing a particular condition or characteristic due to genetic factors. It suggests that individuals with certain genetic variations or mutations have an elevated risk for developing a specific disorder or trait, such as schizophrenia. However, it does not guarantee the development of the condition and is influenced by environmental factors as well. 
 
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): A medical treatment procedure in which electrical currents are passed through the brain to induce controlled seizures. It is primarily used for severe forms of depression, bipolar disorder, or certain cases of schizophrenia that are resistant to other treatments. ECT can help alleviate symptoms, but it also carries potential side effects and requires careful monitoring and anaesthesia during the procedure. 
 
How can we help? 
 
Academy Care, are a domiciliary care company, providing support to individuals whom for reasons of ill health or disability, could benefit from long or short-term domiciliary care services in the comfort and familiar surroundings of their own home. Our highly trained, passionate carers, support people daily in their own homes, to optimise both their independence and wellbeing. 
 
We create tailored care plans to meet the needs of all our clients, working with the client, their family and any medical or social services to ensure that the client gets the very best care for them. We also continuously monitor these care plans to ensure that they are up to date with the needs of the client, as needs can change very quickly. 
 
We will work with you, the client’s family to deliver the care, helping to ensure that everyone involved is happy with the care being provided and that the client’s needs are being met through our service. 
 
If you would like to discuss how we can help you, give us a call on 01924 925 244, alternatively look at our services here. 
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