Continuing a research theme of at least one of the authors, the idea that catatonic symptoms – primarily manifesting as stupor, unresponsiveness to light, noise or touch, mutism, etc – might be over-represented when it comes to autism is not a new one by any means.
Breen & Hare set about looking for “the presence and nature of such attenuated behaviours in children and adolescents with autism” based on something called the Attenuated Behaviour Questionnaire.
This was delivered to parents/caregivers online alongside looking at information from other measures based on the presence of repetitive behaviour and depression.
“Attenuated behaviour indicative of catatonia was relatively common in young people with autism with up to 20.2% having an existing diagnosis of catatonia and evidence of a relationship between attenuated behaviours and measures of depression and repetitive and restricted behaviours.”
Such findings as I said, are by no means novel but once again highlight how a diagnosis of autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is seemingly protective of nothing when it comes to comorbidity.
To quote another author on this topic: “an unabashed drumroll for increased recognition and treatment of catatonia in autism spectrum disorders (ASD)” is needed.
Catatonia appearing alongside (some) autism leads into a number of areas in relation to the ‘closeness’ of any relationship (some people have talked about ‘autistic catatonia’) and the management strategies that may be subsequently indicated.
On the issue of management, guidance is available albeit including a strategy – electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) – that is probably not going to win any awards in terms of popularity given its historical basis.
Accepting that still today ECT as an ‘intervention’ option when it comes to autism still courts heated discussion, there is the requirement for much greater study of catatonic symptoms in relation to autism and whether there may be several presentations ripe for more novel intervention (in light of a growing area of research interest).
Said intervention might also take into account the plurality of autism too…
Breen J, & Hare DJ. (2017) The nature and prevalence of catatonic symptoms in young people with autism. Journal of intellectual disability research : JIDR. PMID: 28150394
Hare DJ. & Malone C. Catatonia and Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Autism. 2004; 8: 183-195.
Dhossche DM. Decalogue of Catatonia in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2014;5:157.
Mazzone L. et al. Catatonia in patients with autism: prevalence and management. CNS Drugs. 2014 Mar;28(3):205-15.
Kiani R. et al. Anti-NMDA-receptor encephalitis presenting with catatonia and neuroleptic malignant syndrome in patients with intellectual disability and autism. BJPsych Bull. 2015 Feb;39(1):32-5.
The nature and prevalence of catatonic symptoms in young people with autism.
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Author: Paul Whiteley, Questioning Answers