Are you Narcoleptic or A Person with Narcolepsy?
Tonight, while editing the about me page on Queen of Sleep, I realised that I had used the word narcoleptic when describing “a person with narcolepsy”. I quickly browsed through some older posts to see if it had crept in elsewhere in my blog. It had. So why, all of a sudden I am worried about using this word?
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a cafe discussing topics relating to narcolepsy with a friend when he out of the blue asked me if I minded being called a “narcoleptic”. I replied at the time that I didn’t really mind, had never really thought about it, but in general preferred “person with narcolepsy”. He asked me because his daughter (a teenager with narcolepsy) had expressed a clear dislike to being called a narcoleptic. Perhaps the reason why I hadn’t really thought about it was because I am a non native English speaker/reader/writer etc. and sometimes I miss out on nuances in language. Even if I translate, I don’t know if I would have picked up on it. The issue seems to be entirely personal and political.
Narcoleptic defines the person with narcolepsy as a person who is defined by the condition whereas a person with narcolepsy puts the emphasis on the importance of seeing the person first and secondly the condition.
I am sure some people would continue to argue that “I have always described myself as a narcoleptic and I will continue to do so. I don’t care about being politically correct – It always changes anyway”, or similar. The main reason for using “person with narcolepsy” is not because it can come across as discriminative alternatively politically incorrect – it’s simply incorrect usage of English. A person cannot be narcoleptic because a person cannot be described using a medical condition. A person can have narcolepsy – a person can have cataplexy but cannot be narcoleptic or cataplectic. Only attacks or episodes are narcoleptic/cataplectic.