“My cataplexy happened when I was in crowds or social situations.” – Sharon

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What Is Cataplexy?

Cataplexy can be different for each person.

Nearly two-thirds of people living with narcolepsy have cataplexy, which means they have type 1 narcolepsy. Cataplexy is the sudden and brief loss of muscle strength or muscle tone brought on by strong emotions or emotional situations.

Sean Emotional Cataplexy Triggers Video
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Emotions That Trigger Cataplexy Attacks

Sean, 33 years old
Living with narcolepsy with cataplexy

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.

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. More

Emotional Triggers

  • Laughter, happiness, excitement, anticipation
  • Anger, stress, tension, anxiety
  • Embarrassment, frustration

Situational Triggers

  • Telling/hearing a joke or making a witty remark
  • Being the center of attention (for example, while bowling a strike or during other recreational activities)
  • Unexpectedly encountering a friend, being startled
  • Being intimate or romantic; remembering emotional or romantic events

Cataplexy attacks—sometimes called episodes or events—can be different for each person and can happen in almost any muscle group.

Sharon Social Cataplexy Triggers Video
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Social Situations Triggered My Cataplexy

Sharon, 43 years old
Living with narcolepsy with cataplexy

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

Nicki Cataplexy Triggers Video
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What Cataplexy Can Feel Like

Nicki, 29 years old
Philosophy graduate student, living with narcolepsy with cataplexy

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

Sharon Social Cataplexy Triggers Video
Watch Video

Social Situations Triggered My Cataplexy

Sharon, 43 years old
Living with narcolepsy with cataplexy

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

Sean Emotional Cataplexy Triggers Video
Watch Video

Emotions That Trigger Cataplexy Attacks

Sean, 33 years old
Living with narcolepsy with cataplexy

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.

Nicki Cataplexy Triggers Video

What Cataplexy Can Feel Like

Sharon Social Cataplexy Triggers Video

Social Situations Triggered My Cataplexy

Sean Emotional Cataplexy Triggers Video

Emotions That Trigger Cataplexy Attacks

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Narcolepsy symptoms can have a significant impact.

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

Sean, 33 years old, living with narcolepsy with cataplexy

Nicki Cataplexy Triggers Video
Watch Video

What Cataplexy Can Feel Like

Nicki, 29 years old
Philosophy graduate student, living with narcolepsy with cataplexy

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

Icon Mol

Narcolepsy symptoms can have a significant impact.

Discover »
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Performance of routine tasks without awareness or memory.

Difficulty focusing or concentrating.

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

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

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

A chemical in the brain that helps maintain wakefulness.

Vivid dream-like experiences that occur while falling asleep.

Dream-like events that occur when falling asleep. Called hypnopompic hallucinations if they occur when waking up.

A 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.”

Restorative sleep state with decreased muscle tone.

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

Daytime and evening habits to improve sleep.

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

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

The cause of type 2 narcolepsy is unknown.