Frequently Asked Questions About Catatonia

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I had always been told that I would grow up as a fierce woman. After all, my first recollection as a kid was of me kicking a tall bully because he kept picking on my crying friend. Many girls wanted to be my best friend; more boys cowered around me. I never bullied anyone, but I was secretly glad that people thought that I was untouchable because it meant that I would never get victimized by anyone. Or so I thought. 

When I was already in high school, I was absorbed in learning the quadratic equation when I heard shouting and running in the halls. It was a pretty small private campus, so you could listen to everyone whenever they changed classrooms. However, this shouting and running were different from the usual – they sounded more frantic and urgent. I looked outside the window beside my seat, but there was nothing odd out there. 

Thinking that the other kids were merely goofing around, I decided to get up and tell them off. As soon as I poked my head out of the door, though, I saw a senior student hold up a gun and started shooting whoever was in the hallway. If not for my quick-witted teacher, who pulled me down and slammed the door shut and yelled at everyone to hide under their seats, the gunman might have caught sight of me and fired his weapon at me, too.

The killing spree only lasted for 45 seconds. Another teacher snuck behind the student running amok and apparently body-slammed him so that he would drop the gun. The police also came at once, but not before 15 kids got injured and seven students and two teachers died. After that, the entire school held a week-long vigil for the victims, and the murdering teen got convicted.

After The Incident

The school shooting did not become a massive media sensation back then, partly because the school administration did not want the word to spread and scare off possible new students. A week after the incident, everything seemed to go back to normal. The hallways were clean; the cracks on the wall that the stray bullets made got patched up and painted. Even some of the lightly injured students already returned and started getting therapy, courtesy of the school.

However, there was no mental help provided to kids like me who witnessed the crime and felt traumatized by it.

The sound and vision of the wailing teachers and kids remained stuck in my head for years. Whenever I would blink, I would see the gunman’s expressionless eyes and proud grin as he opened fire. I still returned to school despite that disastrous event, but I became an entirely different kid.

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Gone was the fierce and fearless girl who would stand up to every bully out there. If I heard someone scream or shriek, my immediate response was to either stay rigid and hold my breath or duck under my seat. Often, I would space out in class as I stared outside and hoped to catch another gunman who might come to the school before they could even reach the building. The teachers eventually learned to ignore me as their yells made me jump in my seat, and they did not know how else to get my 100% attention.

Because of that, though, my grades began to slip. When I received a C- for the first time, my parents finally called for a family meeting to know what’s wrong with me. Well, you see, they were aware that I was in the same building when the horrific incident happened, but they did not know that I saw how the deranged student gunned down whoever was in the hallway that day. As they continued bugging me and making me admit if it was because I had a secret boyfriend (I didn’t have one, by the way), I ended up telling my symptoms to them.

Getting Help

Worried, my parents wasted no time bringing me to a child psychologist. I did not protest about it because I wanted to know the reason behind the drastic change in my behavior, too.

That’s how I learned that what I had been experiencing was catatonia. It was as if everything I did was delayed, and sometimes, I might miss important things entirely.

“You are fortunate that it got detected early. Otherwise, it could worsen over time and derail your life,” the psychologist said.

“What’s the reason behind my daughter’s catatonic behavior?” my father asked.

“Based on the events she experienced, it’s safe to say that she developed a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is diagnosed in soldiers and in people who witnessed or dealt with violence that they could not easily process. Phobia could also be at play here, given that your daughter talked about feeling jumpy whenever she heard a loud noise.”

What causes people to be catatonic? 

Catatonia always happens when an individual experiences neurotransmitter irregularities.

What are the 4 major causes of depression? 

  • Genetics
  • Abuse
  • Stress
  • Traumatic events

What is catatonic behavior? 

Catatonic behavior is composed of various symptoms that typically involve feeling restless, speechless, and confused.

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What happens in a catatonic state? 

When you are in a catatonic state, you may be at a loss for words, or you cannot sit still without getting agitated.

Are catatonic people aware? 

Yes, most people are aware when they go into a catatonic state. 

Can catatonia be cured? 

Catatonia can be treated – not cured. However, many often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, so they cannot get appropriate treatment.

How long can catatonia last? 

Catatonia can last up to two weeks.

What does catatonic mean in English? 

The term ‘catatonic’ refers to a state in which your muscles become rigid, no matter how much you force yourself to move.

How does catatonic schizophrenia develop? 

Dopamine imbalance and stress are most likely the causes of catatonic schizophrenia.

Is catatonic behavior a positive or negative symptom? 

Catatonic behavior is undoubtedly a negative symptom.

What does catatonia look like?

Catatonia looks like an individual cannot move at all.

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Final Thoughts

We asked the child psychologist more about my catatonia. At first, she talked about referring me to a psychiatrist to get antidepressants, but my parents firmly stated that I would not get drugged up at a young age. The alternative was counseling and therapy, and I must admit that both turned out to be beneficial for me. After a few weeks, I slowly returned to normal and started participating in school activities more. I also found my voice again, and the bullies backed away from me. 

Up to this day, I still need to see my therapist or counselor once a month. Unfortunately, PTSD and anxiety are not the best mental disorders to mix since they can both be severe and incurable. The silver lining was that I received help before it was too late.