Wax on, wax off: A rare case of catatonia

Karen Greenberg, Michael D'Ambrosio, Kenneth M. Liebman, Erol Veznedaroglu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Catatonia was first described by a German psychiatrist, Karl Kahlbaum, in 1874. It is a behavioral syndrome marked by an inability to move normally, which can occur in the context of many underlying general medical and psychiatric disorders. A wide variety of neurologic, metabolic, drug-induced, and psychiatric causes of catatonia have been reported. We present a unique case of late onset catatonia in a 56-year-old man with no prior medical or psychiatric history initially presenting with stroke-like symptoms. The patient was awake and alert, with spontaneous eye opening, but completely nonverbal and not following any commands. Specifically, the patient demonstrated stupor, catalepsy, mutism, and negativism. After extensive emergency department testing, including negative computed tomography head, negative magnetic resonance imaging brain, negative electroencephalogram, and normal laboratory results, the patient was diagnosed with new-onset bipolar disorder with depressive features presenting as catatonia. Recognizing catatonia is important because it may be caused or exacerbated by treatment of the underlying disorder. Failure to institute treatment early in the course of catatonia is associated with a poor prognosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1303.e3-1303.e4
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Emergency Medicine


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