Catalepsy is a condition in which the afflicted person’s muscles become rigid. During the occurrence of this condition, the afflicted person’s feelings are diminished to the extent that they almost feel nothing. Their pulse, breathing, and heartbeat slow down causing these bodily functions to be imperceptible. When moved, their limbs are rigid and no facial expression would be sensed from them. He/she therefore would seem dead to everyone around.


Before the practice of autopsies and embalming of the dead, many people with this condition were buried alive during long hours of rigidity. That may be one reason why catalepsy is used many times in fictional stories. Edgar Allan Poe had used this disease in two of his books, “The Premature Burial” and “The Fall of the House of Usher”. In “The Count of Monte Cristo”, Alexandre Dumas also used this disease in one of his characters. Source: Wikipedia


There is no definite treatment for this disorder. The best that you can do is to treat the underlying cause of the disorder such as the diseases associated with this condition.


Comparing Coma with Catalepsy

It seems like catalepsy may have similarities with coma. But they are two different conditions and their causes are different as well. Comatose patients suffer from brain injuries or brain hemorrhage. Patients under a coma may lose awareness and perception to external stimuli. In catalepsy, while the person may lose feelings of pain, they do not lose their sense of perception and hearing.


A person under cataleptic state may have rigid body. Arms, legs, and all body parts are rigid giving a false perception to the people around that they are already dead. A comatose patient does not display such rigidity.


Catalepsy does not occur on its own. It is not a disease in itself. This condition is a symptom of a more serious illness. Illnesses like schizophrenia, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, catatonia, and other mental and neurological disorders may have this condition as one of its symptoms. This is also a symptom associated with cocaine withdrawal and one time instances may happen to people who experience extreme shock. Prolonged depression may also be one of its causes.


Likewise, coma does not appear on its own and is not a disease in itself. It is usually caused by brain injuries, brain swelling, strokes, and many other accidents or serious illnesses but not neurological disorders.


Catalepsy only lasts for a few hours to a few days. A coma may last from a few days to a few weeks, sometimes resulting in death. In some cases, they last for years.


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Comments 24 comments

quicksand profile image

quicksand 8 years ago

Oooh!  Very frightening indeed. Beats me as to why they have not yet figured out a preventive measure, Beats Me.

BeatsMe profile image

BeatsMe 8 years ago Author

I agree, Quicksand, it's very frightening indeed.

Very little info is written about this condition. It's probably not as scary anymore. I don't think anyone will be buried alive at present because of this. Except probably in very remote areas where doctors cannot be easily reached.

Like epilepsy or asthma, no one really can prevent this. 'The best that you can do is to treat the underlying cause of the disorder such as the diseases associated with this condition.'

Hope I've answered your question. :)

Lgali profile image

Lgali 8 years ago

very informative hub

cgull8m profile image

cgull8m 8 years ago from North Carolina

Scary like you guys say. How many would have been buried alive in the past, terrifying. This could be happening in third world countries also. I love Count of Monte De Cristo, I didn't realize they talked about this have to read again :). In Victor Hugo's Les Miserables they do a similar experiment to escape but not sure whether it is catalepsy.

BeatsMe profile image

BeatsMe 8 years ago Author

Hi Lgali. Thanks for visiting. :)

Hi Cgull, I have heard of people talking about someone they know who had been dead for at least 16 hours and became alive again. Don't know how true that is, though. And not sure also if it was catalepsy or near death experience.

In the past, I think it had happened quite frequent enough to create a scare. Some documents that I've read says people put bells beside the dead, in case they wake up they'd use the bell to alarm the watchers and to let them know they're still alive.

cgull8m profile image

cgull8m 8 years ago from North Carolina

BeatsMe, I think that is a best way so that they can alert if they are alive. In Hinduism they cremate, which will make it impossible there.

BeatsMe profile image

BeatsMe 8 years ago Author

It will be very scary to be cremated while alive. Ouch. :(

Cremated or buried, they're both unpleasant for anyone to experience.

mary7 7 years ago

that has always been a fear of mine.don't have them often but always afraid that someone will think I am dead when I do have one. sometimes last awhile and sometimes a short time.

BeatsMe profile image

BeatsMe 7 years ago Author

Hi Mary7, sorry about your condition. You'll be safer if family members know about your condition and are taking preventive measures. Thanks for reading and sharing. Please stay safe.

linda howsley 7 years ago

Hi im linda and im only 40 and i have this condition and i had one last night,it is very scary and you can hear things going on around you but you cant shout out or move.i dont think mine last for long but you dont know how long it last for.mine start when im in bed ready for a sleep.

BeatsMe profile image

BeatsMe 7 years ago Author

Hi Linda, I'm glad you've stumbled upon this hub but I'm sorry 'bout your condition. Hopefully, in the future, this condition can be controlled. Stay safe.

katyzzz profile image

katyzzz 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Really interesting, I had not heard of this condition before, fancy being buried alive. Beats Me!

BeatsMe profile image

BeatsMe 7 years ago Author

Hi Katyzzz. It's not a common condition. I've only learned about this on TV. Thanks for coming by and I hope this hub gave you new information. :)

joanne 7 years ago

i suffer catalepsy being Bipolar.But no one seems to document this.Anyonelse find the same?

BeatsMe profile image

BeatsMe 7 years ago Author

Thanks Sudhan.

Hi Joanne, yes. Nothing much is written about this online. Maybe because it is a rare condition, a lot of people are not aware of this yet.

Oggie 7 years ago

My Mum used to relate tales of such burials to me in my teenage years. I never considered that such things had actually taken place. But I guess medical advances make it less likely. Nevertheless, Mum did insist on being cremated, saying that at least it would be over with quickly. My sincere sympathy rests with the poor folk who experience this. Can they cry? As I seem to recall, that what prompted Mum's conversation was a film that had a character saved by a single tear running down the cheek.

BeatsMe profile image

BeatsMe 7 years ago Author

Hi Oggie, thanks for sharing what your mom had shared with you. I believe different people who are put in the same situation will show different reactions. So, maybe some can cry but in general, that is not the case. Anyway, stories in TVs and films always have twists in them that makes the stories more interesting for the audience. In the film you watched, the man's tear helped save his life, that's how the story was written to make it more intersting.

Thanks for dropping by. Hope you've enjoyed reading this. :)

meka33 5 years ago


BeatsMe profile image

BeatsMe 5 years ago Author

:) :)

jason b 5 years ago

My brother has this condition, the longest episode he had lasted a few hours

BeatsMe profile image

BeatsMe 5 years ago Author

Hi Jason, thanks for sharing your experience. Good luck, hope your brother is well and safe.

bella 4 years ago

I actually just recently watched the movie, by Edgar Allen Poe - The Premature burial. Anyway this is what made me want to read more of catalepsy. It's quite scary, but it's very rare today probably and with the advancement in medicine they would be able to tell if you have catalepsy or not and if it can be fixed. My gosh how scary!

BeatsMe profile image

BeatsMe 4 years ago Author

Hi Bella, thanks for dropping by and for sharing. IDK, even with the advancement in medicine, doctors still make mistakes. I think that part of human history will never change.

Cheers and hope you enjoyed reading this. :)

isuru 2 years ago

How is this sickness comes from?

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