Self-injury in autism as an alternate sign of catatonia: implications for electroconvulsive therapy.

Mark McIntosh,'s picture
PubMed URL: 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20202760
Author: 
Dhossche DM
Author List: 
Wachtel LE
Dhossche DM
Journal: 
Med Hypotheses
PubMed ID: 
20202760
Pagination: 
111-4
Volume: 
75
Issue: 
1
Abstract: 
Multiple reports show the efficacious usage of ECT for catatonia in individuals with autism. There are also a few reports showing that ECT improves self-injury in people with and without autism. In this hypothesis, self-injury in autism and other developmental disorders may be an alternate sign of catatonia, and as such an indication for electroconvulsive therapy. The issue is important because self-injury occurs at an increased rate in autistic and intellectually disabled individuals, but is poorly understood and often difficult to treat with psychological and pharmacological means. Self-injury may be considered a type of stereotypy, a classic symptom of catatonia that is exquisitely responsive to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Historical and modern reports further support the association of self-injury, tics and catatonia. Central gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) dysfunction may provide an important explanatory link between autism, catatonia and self-injury. Therefore, people with autism and other developmental disorders who develop severe self-injury (with or without concomitant tics) should be assessed for catatonia, and ECT should be considered as a treatment option. Further studies of the utility of ECT as an accepted treatment for catatonia are warranted in the study of self-injury in autism.
Published Date: 
July, 2010

Bradley L. Schlaggar, M.D., Ph.D., Named President and CEO of Kennedy Krieger Institute

We’re thrilled to welcome Bradley L. Schlaggar, M.D., Ph.D., to the Kennedy Krieger family as our next President and CEO.

Learn more.

Appointments & Referrals

FIND A SPECIALIST

Publications

Read inspiring stories, news and updates about the Institute's patient care, research, special education, professional training, and community programs.

 

Resource Finder

 

A free resource that provides access to information and support for individuals and families living with developmental disabilities.