Incontinence as a catatonic sign

BACKGROUND: Incontinence (urinary or fecal) is not included in DSM-5 criteria for catatonia or in most catatonia rating scales. However, there is a historical basis for the inclusion or consideration of incontinence as a catatonic sign.

METHODS: We performed a review of the literature and found references to urinary disturbances and fecal incontinence in 19th- and 20th-century literature. We did a computerized literature review using the terms “catatonia,” “catatonic,” and “incontinence.”

RESULTS: We highlight 2 cases in which urinary or fecal incontinence was a presenting or predominant feature of catatonia. Clinical improvement was associated with improvement in incontinence.

CONCLUSIONS: These preliminary findings suggest that urinary and fecal incontinence may be an uncommon presentation of catatonia. Furthermore, incontinence may improve at the same time catatonia improves with treatment. The neural circuitry that controls micturition and the sphincter involves neural pathways and multiple neurotransmitters. Catatonia can cause a reemergence of involuntary or reflex maturation, leading to urinary incontinence. This may lead to the need for additional custodial care for patients. Thus, the detection and monitoring of urinary and fecal incontinence may help us better understand the pathophysiology and impairment associated with catatonia.

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