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.