“My jaw would go slack and I’d slur my speech.”– Sharon

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What Is Cataplexy?

Most people living with narcolepsy have cataplexy, but it is not always obvious.

Nearly two-thirds of people living with narcolepsy have cataplexy, which is called type 1 narcolepsy. Cataplexy is the sudden and brief loss of muscle strength or muscle tone often brought on by strong emotions or certain situations, like laughing or being startled.

Cataplexy can be brought on by different emotions or situations.

  • Excitement – Gina & Ijeoma
  • Being the center of attention – Sean & Sharon
  • Laughter – Andre
  • Feeling anxious – Sharon
  • Anticipation – Sean
  • Unexpectedly meeting a friend – Sharon
  • Stress – Sharon
  • Fear – Matt
  • Being annoyed – Leah
  • Hearing a joke – Leah & Scott
  • Frustration – Nicki
  • Feeling upset or angry – Scott
More

Cataplexy may change how people go through their daily lives.

People living with narcolepsy may have learned tricks to avoid or control cataplexy attacks or believe these experiences are normal and not realize that they have cataplexy. They may hold back emotions or avoid situations that can trigger an attack.

Vid Cataplexy Emotions That Can Trigger
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Emotions That Trigger Cataplexy Attacks

Sean
Living with narcolepsy

Cataplexy attacks have interfered with big moments in Sean’s personal and professional life, like when he got engaged. Narcolepsy with cataplexy affects everyone differently, but attacks are often brought on by strong emotions.

Sharon Social Cataplexy Triggers Video
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Social Situations Triggered My Cataplexy

Sharon
Living with narcolepsy

After experiencing cataplexy while holding her infant son, Sharon started to avoid social situations.

Patient Video Nicki
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What Cataplexy Can Feel Like

Nicki
Living with narcolepsy

Nicki describes what triggers her cataplexy and what it feels like when she loses muscle control.

I have to avoid experiencing emotions in order to control my body, and that essentially becomes part of your personality.

Sean, living with narcolepsy

Emotions That Trigger Cataplexy Attacks

Sean

Living with narcolepsy

Cataplexy attacks have interfered with big moments in Sean’s personal and professional life, like when he got engaged. Narcolepsy with cataplexy affects everyone differently, but attacks are often brought on by strong emotions.

Social Situations Triggered My Cataplexy

Sharon

Living with narcolepsy

After experiencing cataplexy while holding her infant son, Sharon started to avoid social situations.

What Cataplexy Can Feel Like

Nicki

Living with narcolepsy

Nicki describes what triggers her cataplexy and what it feels like when she loses muscle control.

Vid Cataplexy Emotions That Can Trigger
Watch Video
Sharon Social Cataplexy Triggers Video
Watch Video
Patient Video Nicki
Watch Video
Vid Cataplexy Emotions That Can Trigger

Emotions That Trigger Cataplexy Attacks

Sharon Social Cataplexy Triggers Video

Social Situations Triggered My Cataplexy

Patient Video Nicki

What Cataplexy Can Feel Like

I have to avoid experiencing emotions in order to control my body, and that essentially becomes part of your personality.

Sean, living with narcolepsy

How much is narcolepsy interfering with your daily activities or enjoyment of life?

Take this assessment a few times each year before visiting with your healthcare provider. Print or email your results and share them with your healthcare team to help you have informed discussions about your management plan.

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Narcolepsy Symptoms

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What causes narcolepsy symptoms?

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There’s more to narcolepsy than excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy.

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Vivid dream-like experiences that occur while falling asleep or while waking up.

Occurs at night and includes dreams; muscles are not active to prevent people from acting out dreams.

People with type 1 narcolepsy can be diagnosed by their cataplexy or low levels of hypocretin.

The cause of type 2 narcolepsy is unknown.

Restorative sleep state with decreased muscle tone.

Daytime and evening habits to improve sleep.

Brief total loss of voluntary muscle control when falling asleep or while waking up.

A naturally occurring chemical in the brain that helps maintain wakefulness and prevent non-REM sleep and REM sleep from occurring at the wrong time.

Unintentionally falling asleep due to excessive daytime sleepiness; “sleep attacks.”

The inability to stay awake and alert during the day; a constant need for sleep or unintentionally falling asleep.

A naturally occurring chemical in the brain that helps maintain wakefulness.

Vivid dream-like experiences that occur while falling asleep or while waking up.

Frequent shifts between different states of sleep and wakefulness at night.

Difficulty focusing or concentrating.

Brief loss of muscle tone with retained awareness, often triggered by strong emotions.

Performance of routine tasks without awareness or memory.