:This page is about the medical condition, for the deathcore band, see Catalepsy (band)

Catalepsy is a nervous condition characterized by muscular rigidity and fixity of posture regardless of external stimuli, as well as decreased sensitivity to pain. []

Professionals once believed this disorder was the result of (controllable) mental states that had no basis in physiology. However, researchers now know that catalepsy does not appear on its own; instead, it is a symptom of certain nervous disorders or conditions such as Parkinson's disease and epilepsy. Catalepsy is also a characteristic symptom of cocaine withdrawal, and of schizophrenia treatment with typical anti-psychotics.

Symptoms include: rigid body, rigid limbs, limbs staying in same position when moved (waxy flexibility), no response, loss of muscle control, and slowing down of bodily functions, such as breathing. [Sanberg PR, Bunsey MD, Giordano M, Norman AB. (1998). [ The catalepsy test: its ups and downs] . [Abstract] Retrieved August 22, 2006]

In some cases, isolated cataleptic instances can also be precipitated by extreme emotional shock.

Catalepsy is also a term used by hypnotists to refer to the state of making a hypnotised subject's arm, leg or back rigid. "Arm catalepsy" is often a pre-hypnotic test performed prior to an induction into a full trance.

Literary depictions

In Alexandre Dumas, père's novel "The Count of Monte Cristo", the Abbé Faria suffered from fits of catalepsy from time to time.

In George Eliot's "Silas Marner", the main character Silas Marner frequently suffers from cataleptic fits and seizures. It is not mentioned if they are caused by any of the aforementioned factors.

In Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Resident Patient," a doctor attempts to treat catalepsy with amyl nitrite.

In Ford Madox Ford's "The Good Soldier", the protagonist Dowell suffers from catalepsy following the death of his wife.

In Robert A. Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land" the main character Valentine Michael Smith is believed to have catalepsy when he is returned to Earth.

In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Premature Burial," the narrator suffers from catalepsy. He fears being mistakenly declared dead and buried alive, and goes to great lengths to prevent this. In another of Poe's short stories, "The Fall of the House of Usher," Madeline Usher suffers from catalepsy, and is buried alive by her unstable brother Roderick.

In Émile Zola's short story "La Mort d'Olivier Becaille" ("The Death of Olivier Becaille"), the title character is buried alive and notes that "I must have fallen into one of those cataleptic states that I had read of".

In Film and Television

In Sam Taylor's "Kiki (film)" (1931) Mary Pickford feigns a case of catalespy to keep from being removed from the apartment of the man she secretly loves.

In the soap opera La Traición, the main character, Hugo De Medina, suffers from catalepsy. Later in the telenovela it is revealed that his daughter, Aurora, suffers from the same illness.

In Chavo del Ocho, the main character, El Chavo, would have cataleptic-like fits if frightened, where he would curl as if sitting down in a chair and become stiff. However, he could be healed by being splashed with water.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Catalepsy — Cat a*lep sy, ||Catalepsis Cat a*lep sis, n. [NL. catalepsis, fr. Gr. ? a seizure, fr. ? to seize upon; kata down + ? to take, seize.] (Med.) A sudden suspension of sensation and volition, the body and limbs preserving the position that may be… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • catalepsy — (n.) late 14c., cathalempsia, from M.L. catalepsia, from Gk. katalepsis a seizure, a seizing upon, a taking possession, from kataleptos seized, from katalambanein to seize upon, from kata down (see CATA (Cf. cata )) + lambanein to take (see …   Etymology dictionary

  • catalepsy — ► NOUN ▪ a medical condition in which a person suffers a trance or seizure with a loss of sensation and consciousness accompanied by rigidity of the body. DERIVATIVES cataleptic adjective & noun. ORIGIN Greek katal psis, from katalambanein seize… …   English terms dictionary

  • catalepsy — [kat′ə lep΄sē] n. [LL catalepsis < Gr katalēpsis, a seizing, grasping < katalambanein < kata , down + lambanein, to take, seize: for IE base see LATCH] a condition in which consciousness and feeling seem to be temporarily lost, and the… …   English World dictionary

  • catalepsy —   n. rigid or trance like fit.    ♦ cataleptic, a.    ♦ cataleptiform, a. like catalepsy …   Dictionary of difficult words

  • catalepsy — noun (plural sies) Etymology: Middle English catalempsi, from Medieval Latin catalepsia, from Late Latin catalepsis, from Greek katalēpsis, literally, act of seizing, from katalambanein to seize, from kata + lambanein to take more at latch Date:… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • catalepsy — n. [Gr. katalepsis, seizure] A state of immobilization in which the body and limbs are often plastic with muscle rigidity in the limbs retaining any unusual position into which they are placed; cataleptic adj., n …   Dictionary of invertebrate zoology

  • catalepsy — cataleptic, adj., n. cataleptically, adv. /kat l ep see/, n. Pathol., Psychiatry. a physical condition usually associated with catatonic schizophrenia, characterized by suspension of sensation, muscular rigidity, fixity of posture, and often by… …   Universalium

  • catalepsy — noun severe bodily condition, described in psychiatric pathology, marked by sudden rigidity, fixation of posture, and loss of contact with environmental conditions See Also: catatonic, catatonia …   Wiktionary

  • Catalepsy — The state of persisting in unusual postures or facial expressions, regardless of outside stimuli, as is seen in schizophrenia and some other diseases of the nervous system. * * * A condition characterized by waxy rigidity of the limbs, which may… …   Medical dictionary

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