This site is for US residents 18 years of age or older.
This site is for US residents 18 years of age or older.
Follow Us
I'm a Healthcare Professional I'm a Healthcare Professional

Cataplexy

Cataplexy is sudden muscle weakness triggered by strong emotions like embarrassment, laughter, surprise, or anger. Cataplexy can cause your head to drop, your face to droop, your jaw to weaken, or your knees to give way. Attacks can also affect your whole body and cause you to fall down.

Cataplexy is important to recognize because it occurs in very few other conditions. Not everybody with narcolepsy has cataplexy, but almost everybody with cataplexy has narcolepsy. So if you have cataplexy, you most likely have narcolepsy.

Excessive daytime sleepiness

About 50-60% of people with narcolepsy are thought to have cataplexy (narcolepsy type 1), but it is estimated to have been recognized in only about 20% of patients with narcolepsy.

Cataplexy in children and adolescents

Cataplexy can be hard to recognize in children and adults. It can range from small muscle twitches to full body collapse. Cataplexy attacks in children are often most noticeable as odd facial movements, such as:

  • Raised eyebrows
  • Droopy eyelids or eyes closing
  • Mouth opening or mouth movements
  • Tongue sticking out
  • Grimacing
  • Lip licking, biting, or chewing
  • Slowed or slurred speech

Pediatric cataplexy is sometimes mistaken for other conditions that can have a sudden, uncontrollable, and unpredictable effect on the body, including:

  • Fainting
  • Epilepsy
  • Movement disorders
  • Other nervous system disorders that affect muscles

When your child is surprised or excited, does he or she show any of the effects of cataplexy?

When your child is surprised or excited, does he or she show any of the effects of cataplexy?

Do you or your child have muscle weakness during emotions or laughter?

Take the Narcolepsy Symptom Screener
"If she laughed, she looked exactly like a marionette with the strings cut."Watch Caroline and her mom explain how intrusive cataplexy can be.Not all patients with cataplexy experience complete collapse.
“People began to tell me my face would drop.”Hear about ways that cataplexy can affect patients, from a slight change in expression to total body collapse.