Catalepsy: what it is, symptoms, causes and associated disorders

For a long time, one of the great universal fears of mankind has been to be buried alive, reaching even today. Unfortunately, this fear was not unfounded, as there are many known cases of people, apparently dead, buried during their lifetime.

This phenomenon of apparent death is known as catalepsy.And while there are many ways to confirm a person’s death today, in the dawn of medicine there were many such cases.

    What is catalepsy?

    Catalepsy is classified as a disorder of the central nervous system. It is characterized by the fact that the person suffers from body paralysis, as well as hardening and tension of the muscles, not being able to perform any movement.

    Another hallmark of catalepsy is that the person experiences reduced sensitivity to pain. But the most striking thing about this disorder is that the person is absolutely aware of everything, coming to hear or see everything that is going on around them.

    This disorder has traditionally been known as “apparent death”, gaining its fame thanks to a number of cases in which some people have been buried alive in a state of catalepsy, and are believed to have died.

    The cause of this confusion is that a person in a state of catalepsy he can go from a few minutes to a few weeks paralyzed, Without showing any obvious signs of life.

    Although at first glance it may seem like a terrifying disorder, as it suddenly appears and the person remains conscious, it is not a serious illness and the person can recover steadily once the condition is determined. In contrast, cases of catalepsy have been reported in healthy people. Its onset is usually linked to other disorders such as severe diagnoses of schizophrenia, hysteria and certain psychoses.


    As mentioned in the previous point, a person without any type of disorder or disease can suffer from an episode of catalepsy; be more likely to happen after suffering an anxiety attack, fatigue or low back pain.

    To avoid possible confusion with fainting or even believing that a person is dead, it is important to know the symptoms of catalepsy. These are:

    • body stiffness
    • pallor
    • Decreased or canceled response to visual stimuli
    • Insensitivity to pain
    • Slowness of bodily functions like breathing and heart rate
    • Lack of control over your muscles
    • Appearance of flexibility ceria, in which when another person moves a part of the body of the latter remains in that position.

    Thus, catalepsy is expressed through motor and physiological symptoms. This, as we will see, causes it to exhibit similar characteristics to other diseases, as we will see.

    the causes

    Catalepsy cannot be viewed as a disorder or disease per se, but rather as a symptom or product of a pathology of the nervous system, such as epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease. Likewise, it is a very characteristic symptom of certain psychotic disorders, Mostly schizophrenia.

    In addition to this, some people who undergo rehab treatment for alcohol, drugs or some type of narcotic are also susceptible to an attack of catalepsy, so withdrawal syndrome may be a likely source of catalepsy.

    Although these are the main causes of this disorder, there are a number of situations in which the person is more likely to experience this phenomenon. These are:

    • obesity
    • major depression
    • Sleep Apnea
    • Catalepsy after experiencing very intense emotions

    Anyway, if a person suffers from such an incident, they should go to a medical center to rule out any possibility of any associated disorder or pathology.


      After having experienced a case of catalepsy, urgent assessment and diagnosis is required using techniques such as electroencephalograms (EEG) or electrocardiograms (EEC). The purpose of these is to make a correct assessment of the disease and, above all, to exclude the possibility of death.

      Unfortunately, there is still no specific treatment for catalepsy. Therefore, it is of vital importance for the clinician to clarify what was the cause and, depending on the final diagnosis, a process of action will be implemented to restore the health of the patient.

      When the diagnosis is primary is associated with a disease of the nervous system, such as Parkinson’s disease, the pattern is administer a series of muscle relaxants to the patient the benefits have already been demonstrated in these cases.

      However, when the catalepsy is caused by a psychotic disorder, the protocol of action includes administration of antipsychotics by medical personnel, Along with psychotherapy sessions led by psychologists or psychiatrists.

      In addition, there are a number of home remedies that are helpful when the episode is relatively recurring and has already been diagnosed. This remedy involves soaking the person’s feet in a hot bath, massaging the spine and abdomen.

      Differences between catalepsy and wax flexibility

      As seen at the point of symptoms, flexibility of the ceria is a symptom of catalepsyAnd although in many cases these terms are used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same alteration and reveal fundamental differences.

      Just as catalepsy is a disorder of the nervous system, the flexibility of grains it is a psychomotor symptom characteristic of certain mental disorders like catatonic schizophrenia.

      Like catalepsy, the flexibility of cereals shows a decrease in the person’s ability to move, as well as a reduction in the response to external stimuli, suppressing the will to react and remaining in a still attitude.

      However, as the name of this phenomenon describes it, even though the person has no control over their own movements, if a third person tries to move part of their body, they will perform the movement but it will remain static in the position they left it in.

      Therefore, the person’s body adopts the wearing of a mannequin or a wax doll, which can only move when another person performs the movement in their place or changes their position.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Hattori K, Uchino S, Isosaka T et al. (March 2006). “Fyn is required for haloperidol-induced catalepsy in mice.” J. Biol. Chem.
      • Sanberg PR, Bunsey MD, Giordano M, Norman AB (1988). “The Catalepsy Test: Its Highs and Lows.” Hold on tight. Neurosciences.

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