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Running head: CATATONIA IN AWAKENINGS 1 Catatonia in Awakenings Abigail Smith Greenville Technical College
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CATATONIA IN AWAKENINGS 2 Catatonia in Awakenings The 1990 film Awakenings takes place in 1969 and is based on the story of Oliver Sacks. Dr. Sacks is portrayed by Robin Williams as the character Dr. Malcolm Sayer. He is a neurologist who gets a job at a chronic hospital in the Bronx. He is naturally curious and questions the circumstances regarding the catatonic patients under his care. Most have been immobile for many years, and the hospital staff regards them as unthinking and unfeeling husks. Dr. Sayer begins to believe they are alive inside and may be curable. The film shows the process of waking them up and trying to find suitable treatments. The character Leonard Lowe, played by Robert De Niro, is one of the younger patients under Sayer’s care. He has Catatonic Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition. This condition is shared by the other patients in the ward of the hospital. During this film, Lowe was not diagnosed with a specific condition, although Sayer commented saying, “You'd think at a certain point all these atypical somethings would amount to a typical something” (Zaillian, 1990). He was reviewing the files of all the patients looking for a similarity and could not find one diagnosis. They had atypical bipolar disorder, atypical schizophrenia, or atypical anxiety disorder. While the diagnosis was not discussed in the film, the symptoms display that of the Catatonic Disorder. The DSM-5 states that one with this disorder must have three of a list of symptoms. One of these is stupor, or “no psychomotor activity” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 120). This is present in Lowe’s case as he has not moved of his own volition in twenty years. He also possesses waxy flexibility, which allows his limbs to be positioned by the other characters. The DSM-5 (2013) defines this as “slight, even resistance to
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positioning by an examiner” (p. 120). The third symptom is mutism, “no, or very little, verbal response” (American CATATONIA IN AWAKENINGS 3 Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 120). Lowe demonstrated this through his inability to speak or
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