Queen of Sleep

Living with narcolepsy: a personal journey

Cataplexy and Shock

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Until today, I have never had a cataplexy attack due to shock. It has always been triggered by frustration, anger, joy and being the centre of attention. Every Narcoleptic reacts differently in various scenarios but this one was a first for me, and I guess therefore it became even scarier. I was stroking a really lovely and beautiful cat. I have to add she was only 2 and I did not know her very well. Most cats that I have met, have a way of showing you when they want to be left alone. They growl, or paw you. This particular cat went from stroking herself on me to jumping up in my face placing both paws, with claws out on each of my cheeks in seconds. I screamed and covered my face with my hands. I felt the pain and the tears mix and I became afraid of removing my hands to see just how badly I was scratched. All this happened within seconds and then my legs and body started to wobble. An instant reaction to the situation, an overwhelming power over my muscles that I knew immediately that I would be unable to control. I was fighting a losing battle trying to control it so I fairly slowly (or it felt slow – I am not sure) (so I would not get hurt by crashing onto the floor) gave in. All of a sudden, I started crying then stopped meanwhile I tried to get to the sofa where I could relax and recover. Then I cried a little more. I was so surprised! My brain must have gone through various scenarios trying match the experience to something in the archives (memory) but got all it got was syntax error. Fortunately, I only got a few scratch marks and recovered fairly quickly.

A few hours later, I started thinking about shock and cataplexy. The difference in experience between instant shock and delayed shock = do they both result in cataplexy? The answer must be that the response is individual. But then I wonder if I have had delayed shock experiences that have manifested themselves in cataplexy triggered by something fairly simple. The majority of our emotions are replayed over and over again.  There is obviously the theory that narcolepsy could stem from shock+trauma simultaneously = narcolepsy with cataplexy.  Are all cataplexy attacks replayed shock experiences? Perhaps. The dictionary lists several meanings of the word shock but the ones that seem most fitting are:

– a sudden or violent disturbance of the mind, emotions, or sensibilities: The burglary was a shock to her sense of security. (Or in this case the cat shocked her sense of security ;))
– the physiological effect produced by the passage of an electric current through the body.
As you can see the word shock and cataplexy seems to have similar meaning but what does the direct translation of cataplexy mean? At first, I thought the word had a Greek origin…

The Scholarpedia describes cataplexy as the sudden loss of muscle tone that is triggered by the experience of an intense emotion. The word cataplexy comes from the Latin word “cataplessa” which means, “to strike down with fear or the like”. Cataplexy is the result of an absence of the hypocretin (also known as orexin) neurotransmitter in the hypothalamus.

I assume that “cataplessa” – “to strike down with fear or the like” is the active form, and cataplexy is the passive form of the verb and therefore means in the region of: “to be struck down with fear or the like”.

Go to the Google library if you want to read more on the brief history of cataplexy. There is a brilliant book there called : Epilepsy and sleep: physiological and clinical relationships written by Dudley S. Dinner,Hans Lüders

Written by Queen of Sleep

September 5, 2010 at 6:14 pm

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