Schizophrenia: Catatonic Subtype
The predominant clinical features seen in the catatonic subtype involve disturbances in movement. Affected people may exhibit a dramatic reduction in activity, to the point that voluntary movement stops, as in catatonic stupor. Alternatively, activity can dramatically increase, a state known as catatonic excitement.
Other disturbances of movement can be present with this subtype. Actions that appear relatively purposeless but are repetitively performed, also known as stereotypic behavior, may occur, often to the exclusion of involvement in any productive activity.
Patients may exhibit an immobility or resistance to any attempt to change how they appear. They may maintain a pose in which someone places them, sometimes for extended periods of time. This symptom sometimes is referred to as waxy flexibility. Some patients show considerable physical strength in resistance to repositioning attempts, even though they appear to be uncomfortable to most people.
Affected people may voluntarily assume unusual body positions, or manifest unusual facial contortions or limb movements. This set of symptoms sometimes is confused with another disorder called tardive dyskinesia, which mimics some of these same, odd behaviors. Other symptoms associated with the catatonic subtype include an almost parrot-like repeating of what another person is saying (echolalia) or mimicking the movements of another person (echopraxia). Echolalia and echopraxia also are seen in Tourette’s Syndrome.
Schizophrenia: Undifferentiated Subtype
The undifferentiated subtype is diagnosed when people have symptoms of schizophrenia that are not sufficiently formed or specific enough to permit classification of the illness into one of the other subtypes.
The symptoms of any one person can fluctuate at different points in time, resulting in uncertainty as to the correct subtype classification. Other people will exhibit symptoms that are remarkably stable over time but still may not fit one of the typical subtype pictures. In either instance, diagnosis of the undifferentiated subtype may best describe the mixed clinical syndrome.
Schizophrenia: Residual Subtype
This subtype is diagnosed when the patient no longer displays prominent symptoms. In such cases, the schizophrenic symptoms generally have lessened in severity. Hallucinations, delusions or idiosyncratic behaviors may still be present, but their manifestations are significantly diminished in comparison to the acute phase of the illness.
Just as the symptoms of schizophrenia are diverse, so are its ramifications. Different kinds of impairment affect each patient’s life to varying degrees. Some people require custodial care in state institutions, while others are gainfully employed and can maintain an active family life. However, the majority of patients are at neither of these extremes. Most will have a waxing and waning course marked with some hospitalizations and some assistance from outside support sources.
People having a higher level of functioning before the start of their illness typically have a better outcome. In general, better outcomes are associated with brief episodes of symptoms worsening followed by a return to normal functioning. Women have a better prognosis for higher functioning than men, as do patients with no apparent structural abnormalities of the brain.
In contrast, a poorer prognosis is indicated by a gradual or insidious onset, beginning in childhood or adolescence; structural brain abnormalities, as seen on imaging studies; and failure to return to prior levels of functioning after acute episodes.
Causes of Schizophrenia