What Is Cataplexy? A Simple Guide to Understanding Cataplexy

what is cataplexy

You’ve probably heard the hyperbolic phrase “I was paralyzed with fear,” or something similar, during your life.

However, for people with cataplexy, that phrase is more of a reality than an exaggeration.

If you or someone you know have recently experienced a cataplexy episode, you may feel a little overwhelmed. However, answering the question “What is cataplexy?” is much easier than you’d think.

Keep reading below to learn all you need to know about cataplexy and its treatment!

What Is Cataplexy: Explained

Cataplexy is an uncontrollable weakness of the muscles. When someone with cataplexy has an episode, they lose muscle tone and can be sent into a state of paralysis. Depending on which muscles become weak, the person may be unable to speak or stand up.

It’s important to note that when a person experiences a cataplexy episode, they are fully conscious. These episodes typically only last a minute or two.

Cataplexy episodes are often triggered by intense emotions. These emotions are typically positive, as it’s common for fits of laughter to trigger a cataplexy episode. However, other intense emotions, such as terror, have been known to cause cataplexy episodes as well.

Cataplexy’s Association with Narcolepsy

Cataplexy can be a stand-alone disorder, however, it is most commonly associated with narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that leads people to be excessively sleepy during the day. Patients with it can fall asleep involuntarily, interrupting their daily lives.

It’s notable that 60-70% of patients with narcolepsy also have cataplexy. It occurs because patients are unable to regulate their awake and sleep states, leading to an overlap in these states.

Loss of muscle tone is natural during sleep. However, when the body mistakenly takes on the qualities of REM sleep during the day, a patient will fall into a cataplexy episode.

Cataplexy has also shown to be co-morbid with other disorders, such as Niemann-Pick type C disease, Prader-Willi syndrome and Wilson’s disease. However, these are much rarer disorders than narcolepsy or stand-alone cataplexy.


Now that we’ve answered the question “What is cataplexy?” you’re probably wondering how to treat it. Unfortunately, there is no cure for cataplexy. However, it can be managed by monitoring and controlling symptoms.

One of the best ways to control cataplexy, especially if it’s in conjunction with narcolepsy, is by maintaining a routine and healthy sleep schedule. It’s best to avoid caffeine late in the day or eating a large meal before bed as well.

Regulating your emotions and trying to eliminate stress is another great way to manage symptoms. Relaxing your body through exercise or meditation is one way of doing this. CBD for cataplexy symptom management is a simple way to reduce stress and anxiety.

A Manageable Condition

As with any condition, feeling a loss of control of one’s body can be very alarming. With the questions “What is cataplexy?” and “How is it treated?” answered, you can rest assured that this condition is very manageable and won’t drastically change your life. Mindful behavior and general good health practices can make all the difference.

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