catatonia is, for some autistic and asperger's people a terrible problem. as an asperger's type myself, who sometimes suffers from catatonia (or autistic shutdown, if there's a difference, whatever it may be), i thought it would be useful to write down my experience with this subject for the benefit of other sufferers and the parents/carers of sufferers. the remainder of the thread is for others to relate their own experiences and submit any information they may have on treatmet or anything of the condition. here goes...
catatonia in autism spectrum disorders tends, according to what little research i've read, to reveal itself at around the age of mid- to late-puberty, and in males more than females (even futher than the disorder already affects more males than females). my first experience with it indeed came at the age of 17.
those of you who are familiar with asperger's will know that with it comes strong passions for particular subjects. with age and experience, this focus becomes broader and no longer completely overriding. with asperger's and autism in general, there also comes a tendency to think more visually/logically, rather than socially/verbally as most people tend to. following directly from this, we tend to have greater proficiency in scientific subjects such as chemistry, physics and maths, and deficiency in such subjects as english and the social sciences which require social intellect to do such things as analyse motives and literary intent. when these subjects are encompassed by the asperger's person's passions, they can excel in them (as when their passions lie in the sciences or in engineering or programming), but when (more commonly) these social subjects become a burden, they can lend themselves to frustration and stress.
the frustration comes from a lack of intuitive understanding, and negative voices in the head wishing that "i don't have to do this" and any number of similar things. this voice, combined with the simple inability to approach the problem, leads to an ever deepening spiral of blackness and depression.
asperger's people also tend to have difficulty vocalising that they even have difficulty in the first place (at the very least, i do), and so i can end up silently wishing for help and becoming more and more negative and, ultimately, more and more helpless.
as a parent or carer, you might not even know, unless you were watching events (or the lack of them) like a hawk.
when attempting things that i could not do, i would often end up knowing that i should stop, but knowing that the task had to be done, and it got to the point that i couldn't write and i couldn't make myself even put the pen down. it would (and still does) take me a day to recover and be able to do anything really constructive again that wasn't related in my head to "play" or relaxation. i usually had to be pulled away from the task and specifically told to leave it alone, and by that stage, the best thing in the world would be to lie down on the floor and stare at the ceiling for a while.
however, i usually only allow myself to go catatonic when i'm in a safe place such as home. elsewhere, i have concerns for my ability to get home, to not impose on people who are not designated my carer (in my case my mum). there are any number of reasons for my not going catatonic easily outside of home, but they're safety mechanisms and i'm glad i have them.
while i'm in the catatonic state or slipping into it, i gradually find it harder to motivate myself and move and asking for help becomes nearly impossible (if not). there's a lot of internal anguish, wanting to cry out, smash things and just express the enormity of what i'm feeling, but, being a careful and restrained person in general, and not wanting to break things (it usually gets expensive
) i just stay within myself and contemplate my situation. (this seems to me to be what classic autism might be like, hence my suggesting that it's autistic shutdown, rather than or identical to catatonia.)
coming out takes a while, and it helps just to have someone comforting there, with no judgementalism or harshness (or i'll want to stay there away from them). as i mentioned, i usually can't be expected to do much for at least a few hours from my getting more complete control back. an interesting, unintensive, fun, interesting diversion is usually the best thing to draw me back. music and singing are examples that may appeal in general, but reading or playing computer games (or non-competitive and (especially) physically unintensive games that can draw back interest and mental activity) can be just as good.
now i've taken too many breaks through writing this and my concentration/inspiration/thoughts have strayed and i can't think of anything further to add. if anything surfaces later i'll try to remember to add it here when i can.
i hope this can help some people out there and make life easier for people who have to deal with catatonia.