Is Cataplexy dangerous?

Cataplexy is a phenomenon that I have only seen on TV shows or movies, which I always thought looked very intriguing but also very frightening. Cataplexy is a condition in which a person's muscles suddenly weaken while they are awake. From a neurological point of view, the phenomenon of cataplexy results from the loss of around 40 thousand hypocretin-containing neurons in the lateral hypothalamus (P. Reading 2008). In addition, Cataplexy attacks can be both mild and severe whereas momentary feelings of weakness in only a few muscles are common in less severe episodes, and total loss of voluntary muscular control is more common in severe episodes.  But how exactly is this phenomenon triggered?  

Cataplexy, unlike other disorders that involve muscle control loss, such as fainting or seizures, causes patients to remain cognizant and aware which is in my opinion quite frightening. Furthermore, according to P. Reading 2008 who conducted a study regarding Cataplexy, certain emotional stimuli frequently cause the episodes, which is a distinctive and puzzling trait. That being said, whenever a patient experiences anger, excitement, or anxiety, it is more likely for the patient to trigger an attack caused by Cataplexy. There are however certain treatments available whereas the standard treatment for mild Cataplexy is antidepressant drug therapy with relatively modest doses since they most likely act by reducing REM sleep, mostly by raiding brain monoamine concentrations.  On the other hand, the most effective treatment for severe Cataplexy is sodium Oxybate which are pills that need to be taken before overnight sleep.

To answer the key question of whether Cataplaxy is dangerous, summarized after looking up all the information regarding Cataplaxy, I can conclude that it might be dangerous depending on the seriousness of this particular type of Dyssomnia. Additionally, although medication tends to reduce the number of attacks significantly, it cannot prevent all attacks, and therefore, the life of the patients is affected at all times.


Reading, Paul. “Cataplexy.” Practical Neurology, vol. 19, no. 1, 24 Oct. 2018, pp. 21–27, 10.1136/practneurol-2018-002001. Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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