Catalepsy is a symptom resulting from problems with the nervous system, and causes muscular rigidity. People with the symptom may also be less sensitive to touch and have a decreased sensitivity to pain. Catalepsy generally causes people to be nonresponsive to speech. It is similar to catatonia, a condition marked by strange movements, lack of movement, and/or general nonresponsiveness. However, it typically has an underlying physiological cause and does not cause stereotyped movements.

Symptoms of Catalepsy
Symptoms of catalepsy include:

  • Extremely rigid body posture
  • Decreased sensitivity to pain
  • Limbs that stay in the same position when they are moved
  • Slower bodily functions, particularly breathing
  • Decreased muscle control, or complete loss of muscle control

Causes of Catalepsy
Catalepsy is a symptom of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. Withdrawal from some drugs, particularly cocaine, may also cause catalepsy. Antipsychotic medications may also cause catalepsy–catalepsy is one of many side effects that interfere with people with schizophrenia’s willingness to take their medication. Rarely, extreme emotions can cause catalepsy.

Treatment for Catalepsy

Treatment typically focuses on ameliorating underlying neurological causes of the disorder. Muscle relaxants may be effective for some people with catalepsy. When catalepsy is caused by drug withdrawal, people typically return to normal after several days or weeks. However, clinicians must carefully monitor them for signs of life-threatening conditions. When catalepsy is caused by shock, extreme emotion or trauma, it usually goes away on its own. If it persists for an extended period of time, however, antipsychotic medications in conjunction with psychotherapy may help remedy the underlying cause.

Catalepsy in Popular Culture
Upon learning that he had won the gold medal, Olympic long jumper Bob Beamon entered into a brief cataleptic seizure. Catalepsy has also been used as a plotline in numerous movies and books.


  1. Colman, A. M. (2006). Oxford dictionary of psychology. New York, NY: Oxford UniversityPress.
  2. Redgrave, S. (n.d.). Olympic milestones: Bob Beamon’s astonishing leap into sporting history. The Evening Standard. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-4-2015

  • Leave a Comment
  • N. Gaylor

    November 10th, 2013 at 8:15 PM

    Two months ago my 3 little chihuahuas began having episodes while asleep. Rigid legs with neck turned to the side, lasting for a few minutes. Then about a week later I began having similar muscle rigidity waking me up at night and occurring several times a night. The vet is giving the dogs valium and it has helped for awhile but seems to be losing it’s efficiency.My doctor
    has prescribed Flexiril which has worked well but is now having
    less effect. This is causing me to feel more of the rigidity episodes thru the night. BTW, it leaves my stomach hurting. No one has any idea why these are occuring. I having been told to leave my house which is impossible. Very scary situation. Any ideas?

  • David

    December 6th, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    Try a COMPLETE change of environment- the place you live, the water and other liquids you drink, and especially the air you breathe.
    I suspect your dogs were your personal “canary in a coal mine” and being much smaller than you, were affected by whatever before you were. If you began closing your windows around Sept and have been reducing the amount of outdoor air getting into the house since, that would explain the reduction in efficacy of the drugs, assuming an airborne/interior environmental problem.
    Leaving your house is impossible? Tell that to the Coroner.

  • Ziggy

    November 12th, 2018 at 4:01 PM

    This is such great advice. I wonder if it was taken?

  • Assayed About

    September 27th, 2016 at 3:22 PM

    It’s very interesting clinical scenario of catalepsy,my patient is a young Saudi soldier who has just been subjected to a follow-up surgery of plate removal of a healing fracture of leg
    He a text book of the Syndrome started by cataleptic seizure.
    Looking forward to seeing other colleagues confronting similar diagnosis recent

  • David O

    November 16th, 2016 at 1:41 AM

    This lack of movement is also accompanied by a complete consciousness of surrounding.

  • David O

    November 16th, 2016 at 1:43 AM

    The information is very enlightening.

  • Jean

    July 29th, 2017 at 3:23 AM

    Hi I’ve been trying to look up information about Catalepsy but it nearly always comes up as a subsidiary to Narcolepsy. I’m having falls without losing consciousness or hearing. I’ve recently been discharged from a psychiatric hospital and have PD, EDNOS and depression. I live alone as my marriage has just broken down and have fallen down the stairs a few times! A lot of the time I now sleep on the sofa as I’m too scared to go upstairs. Occasionally I’ve had a drink go all over me because my arm has just flopped. Some injuries need hospital and Physio treatment. My Gp has referred me to cardiology and neurology departments at my local hospital, will this help to say whether I’ve got the condition or not. Any information would be gratefully received. Thanks

  • Benjamin-W.

    October 19th, 2017 at 7:44 PM

    Hi Jean,
    I’m not yet an expert, still in my sophomore year. If i read what you wrote correctly, then you must be having Partial Paralysis or more distinctively Monoplegia (paralysis on one limb). But more question will need to be asked to determine whether it’s just a consciousness disorder or the former above. But I don’t think you’re having Catalepsy. Because, Catalepsy symptoms are rigid limbs, and you lose consciousness for sometime. But it will be nice to see a neurologist. But if you have the time you can contact me ans we’ll talk.
    I believe you’ll get back to full recovery with the right treatment.
    Take Care Jean.

  • Maria

    August 26th, 2019 at 1:09 AM

    When you say you have PD….do you mean Parkinson’s Disease?

  • Petros

    December 9th, 2020 at 2:56 AM

    I also get rigid muscles and struggle to wake up from my sleep sometimes …and my face will be making some weird moves …it must be catalepsy …what must l do to cure it

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