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Karl Ludwig Kahlbaum was the first to describe catatonia in 1868. There has been a tendency to consider catatonia as a psychiatric disease despite many case reports demonstrating a wide range of medical and neurological as well as psychiatric causes. We present our accumulated experience of the catatonic syndrome. Most cases (36%) were associated with affective illness but five cases (20%) had a defined organic disorder. A significant minority had no identifiable cause and there was only one case of schizophrenia. The idiopathic and affective groups had a high incidence of recurrent catatonic episodes and many had a family history of a similar problem. The prognosis was excellent, except for the few patients who presented with the acute and rapidly progressive form of the syndrome which led to acute renal failure.