What is catalepsy: Waking up at your own funeral

We’ve talked about quite a few disorders and medical conditions on our blog, but today we’re talking about one of the weirder ones: catalepsy. But, what is catalepsy? what are catalepsy symptoms? What are the treatments?

What is catalepsy
What is catalepsy

What is Catalepsy?

It is a disturbance in the nervous system that causes a momentary loss of voluntary and involuntary mobility of the body, leaving the sufferer completely immobilized.

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It comes from the Greek word κατάληψις meaning “seizing or grasping”. There is a decreased sensitivity to pain. People with what is catalepsy may be less sensitive to touch adn have a decreased sensitivity to pain.

What is catalepsy?: Symptoms

The symptoms of this disorder are the following:

  • Unresponsive to stimuli
  • Rigidness
  • Pale skin
  • Extremely slow breathing
  • Heart rate
  • Decreased sensitivity to pain
  • Slower bodily functions
  • Decreased muscle control/ loss of muscle control
  • Limbs remain in the same position when the are moved

The subject is paralyzed and has no vital signs, which, to most people, would seem like they were dead. This disorder usually lasts a few minutes or hours, but can last up to days in the most extreme cases.

In this state, the person may be conscious or unconscious to varying degrees: there are some cases where the subject only vaguely knows what is happening, while others remember everything vividly.

What is catalepsy?- Causes

This condition may be caused by epilepsy, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, or cocaine consumption. In very few cases, it can also be due to a traumatizing emotional event. Some hypnosis experts have been able to cause catalepsy, making people keep their arms, legs, or back straight.

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A long time ago, some people who suffered from this condition were actually buried because everyone believed them to be dead. Because of this, there are still many urban legends about people coming back to life at their own funerals, which has created quite a bit of panic about the whole thing.

The sum of real cases and fake ones caused a logical fear of being buried alive. This led to professionals at funeral parlors designing an intricate system to prevent such an occurrence. They attached a bell to the casket with a rope fed through a long tube, so that the supposed corpse could alert cemetery staff of their state should they need to. After all of this creative effort, there are no registries that show these designs ever being made.

Luckily, this fear of being buried alive can be left in the past. We have to think about the time period that this was happening in. There was little medical training or understanding, and it was common for people to die suddenly of unknown causes. Today, we have the medical technology to understand and really find out if someone is dead before burying them. So don’t worry, you can sleep like a baby.

What is catalepsy?- Treatment

Catalepsy treatment tends to focus on the neurological disorder that is causing it. If catalepsy might be caused by shock, extreme emotion or trauma it will go on its own. However, if the cause is a neurological disorder muscle relaxants may be effective.

In other cases, antipsychotic medications as well as different types of psychotherapy can be used to help alleviate the underlying cause of catalepsy.

This post is also available in: Spanish