Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Catatonic Depression- freezing up


I just wanted to say thank you in advance for any ideas, hints or knowledge.

Again, I know this is not a Bipolar forum, but there are many members on here who are very knowledgeable about bipolar, and who has given me some very relevant and helpful information that I just felt the need to discuss another aspect.

I’ve been concerned about how deeply my youngest brother is shutting down. I’ve been told to expect him hitting depression. I am trying to be aware of how he must be in shock. He’s most likely realizing what has happened to him, the trauma of getting this diagnosis, the deep realization of everything that is coming into focus, I bet this is a lot to process; this is just my guess. I might be over thinking this.

But it’s been concerning me how he freezes up. I don’t mean just emotionally, I do mean physically. He’ll glaze over and let go for a while and be motionless, unresponsive and frozen. He will eventually resurface after a few hours. But he is moving so slow and having such a hard time responding for a while after words. He will gather speed and come back for a while. But then he’ll get tired and let go again.

I’m wondering if this might require extra meds, or maybe this shut down is a coping mechanism? I have much to learn.

I’ve been turned on to another phrase- Cationic Depression. Bipolar sites have been talking about Catatonic Depression and how it can come and go, and how it can mimic the same sort of Catatonia found in Sz. How it’s more associated with bipolar 1 which is what my brother was diagnosed with.

I remember when my oldest brother J hit a phase of frozen; but I really believe his numb unresponsive state was due to negative symptoms mixed with over medication. When his meds were cut back, he came back to us.

I do realize that due to meds, new therapies, and earlier treatment, Catatonic Sz is becoming increasingly rare. Yet, I am getting worried. My parents are also monitoring the situation. So it’s not all on my shoulders, but I am trying to understand.

Does anyone have any experience with freezing? If so; how does one help?

Thank you for letting me post


I don’t have any experience with it personally, but I do know there are meds for it and as a last resort they use ECT. So don’t feel hopeless about it because there is help. I hope you get the answers you’re looking for. :sunny:


Catonia in bipolar I is similar to that in schizophrenia, as they’re both believed to be caused by irregularities in dopamine and glutamate.

Thus the treatments for catonia in bipolar I are similar to those of sz. The most common treatment is a benzodiazepine. Specifically lorazapam (Ativan). Most patients respond to this med as a first line treatment.

Other treatments are atypical APs, ECT (as sungirl said), and TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation).

If the catonia is interfering with ADLs, then it needs to be treated assertively.

I hope this helps in some way.




Hi Kidsis~
My sis did do this-but not all the time. She told me that she just had to realize so much at one time. It was hard to process everything that had happened to her. For her, that shutdown or " frozen state " was her just trying to rest, process, and fill up again. She was pretty empty inside and needed those times to refill her " soul " so to speak.
I cant say its the same with your brother-but it does sound very similiar to what my sis experienced. I takes a while to adjust and process…then resurface.
That illness can really burn up the wires.
Hope that helps and your brother resurfaces soon. OO


Hi @kidsister I am sorry that your brother is in this condition.
With depression comes slower thinking and movements. Catalonia is not so uncommon in Bipolar type 1 patients - it is a type of depression which also can include peculiar movements as well as freezing. Yes benzos like Ativan are sometimes used and other meds including GABA are also used.
It is very crucial that family members are in close communication with the doctors and are informed about the different treatment options - stay strong and informed - it can be successfully treated


Dear @SunGirl, Thank you for the good hopes.

@radmedtech, Thank you for the knowledge and the idea of where to begin.

@bridgecomet, I had a feeling that my brother was sort of hitting the reset button as well. I’m glad you sis was able to pull out of the episodes and come back to herself.

@Wave, Thank you for the encouragement and the knowledge as well. My oldest brother didn’t freeze up the same way my youngest brother has. J didn’t have muscle rigidity like my youngest brother dose.

Thank you all for the replies. I have found out that my youngest brother’s doc has been alerted to this freezing and my parents are keeping an eye on the length of freeze and frequency of freeze. It sounds like my youngest brother is going to go back to the doctor soon.

I hate to be so silly and say how sad it is to see him suffering like this. I can only imagine how hard it is for him. He’s so disoriented when he manages to pull out of it and get back up to speed.

That disorientation seems to cause him more anxiety and more upset. I do hope he gets put on Ativan. Hopefully that will break the cycle and help him.

Thank you again for all the replies and the knowledge.


I know eveyone;s symptoms is different. My son would do this when over medicated. He has bipolar. When he was on zyprexa he went into this, almost catatonic. It bothered him, he said he had no feelings, good or bad. He went suicidal and too the hospital. That was early in his illness, since we have learned that there is a fine line for him, too much sedation sends him into the depressed phase. My son’s depressive symptoms had never come out this way, catatonic. He was up up up, and then crash into depression, sleep for a few days and start all over again. Then there is another state he goes into where he doesn’t move alot, and he just kinda fades out, doesn’t hear you or repond, its like he’s not there. He would do this on no meds and when getting started on meds. It was never for a long period of time though, it never lasted an hour. On the right mood stabilizer at the proper dose will take care of this and the anxiety too. When stabilized properly he won’t hit mania or depression. That is the 1st goal. His mood stabilizer isn’t working if he’s depressed. But like we learned, oversedated, it prevented mania but sent him to the other end of the pole.


This is exactly like my oldest brother when his seroquel was at it’s highest.

My youngest brother does say that during his freeze, he can hear us. He can actually hear what is going on around him, he just can’t respond.

My oldest brother would just sink into himself and even though he was moving and talking, he didn’t hear me and didn’t try to respond.


I’m just so glad that you care for your brothers. Most just leave them. You understand and care, maybe it just takes time to understand, idk. Yes, its hard to see them this way. It was very hard for my son early on. It might help him to know that finding the right med will happen. If your brothers have different symptoms, they will need different meds. My son has been on everything, but started refusing to take anything which really worsened his illness. He is now on a medicine that works and no longer does this. He used to do it several times a day. How long has he been on his current regimen?


My oldest brother has been on his current meds for almost two and a half years. There have been some adjustments here and there. But the basic Latuda/Seroquel combo has remained in tact. The past year my oldest brother has been very diligent with his meds, therapy and staying away from all street drugs.

My youngest brother has been on injectable Risperdal for two months now and I think mood stabilizers are going to be added. He just got out of hospital in early june. He’s still in a very delicate situation. He’s still just getting to know himself.

I was so young when my oldest brother went through his onset. I didn’t see so much of it, or rather, I didn’t understand the severity of what was happening to him.

Seeing my youngest brother suffer now seems harder then it was when my oldest brother was having problems.


I can understand that. My son has been there. Bipolar can be like that. Two months is pretty early for the medication. There was several hospitalizations the dr said it would take longer because he was in bad shape. Its pretty scarey, you don’t think they will make it back. I know you will feel better when he does.