Editorial by Dr. Andrew Francis, Dr. Max Fink, and an International Consortium of Scholars Published in The Journal of ECT

Andrew Francis, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, and Max Fink, MD, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurology, have organized an international group of thirty-four prominent scholars to preserve the diagnosis of Catatonia in the upcoming edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, scheduled for publication in 2013. Their rationale for preserving the diagnosis was published in the December 2010 edition of the Journal of ECT

Dr. Francis and Dr. Fink are members of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University. The scholars who joined in the editorial are from every corner of the globe: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Japan. Most have written extensively about Catatonia syndrome.

The December edition of the Journal of ECT is dedicated to Catatonia. It includes nine articles describing the usefulness of ECT in treating Catatonia in a variety of forms and conditions. An editorial by Dr. Max Fink on The Intimate Relationship Between Catatonia and Convulsive Therapy reviews the history of Catatonia and the effectiveness of convulsive therapies in its treatment.  

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), is used by researchers and clinicians as a guide to the classification and diagnosis of psychiatric disorders. The current version, DSM-IV, was published more than sixteen years ago. A revised version, DSM-V, is currently under development.

Responsibility for describing Catatonia in the new manual was assigned to the APA DSM-V Psychotic Disorders Workgroup, chaired by Dr. William Carpenter. In a preliminary version of the revised manual, the diagnostic categories for Catatonia (Schizophrenia Catatonic type and Catatonic disorder due to a medical condition) were eliminated, which Drs. Francis and Fink found alarming. Using their extensive international connections, they organized what has come to be known as the Catatonia Scholars Group and submitted their comments to the APA Workgroup.

In his April 2009 report to the APA, Dr. Carpenter said that the workgroup is now actively considering “moving Catatonia to its own diagnostic class.” He invited the Catatonia Scholars Group to suggest language for describing the syndrome, which they are currently writing. “Right now it looks good,” Dr. Francis said, “but there is still a long way to go.”