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Does Narcolepsy Cause Anxiety?

Narcolepsy is a type of a sleep disorder which is chronic in nature. The characteristic features of this condition are an overwhelming or excessive daytime drowsiness and abrupt attacks of sleep. Those who suffer from this condition are often unable to stay awake for a longer duration. This condition may cause a lot many disturbances in your day to day life. Narcolepsy cannot be cured. Symptoms can be managed with some medications and lifestyle changes.

Does Narcolepsy Cause Anxiety?

Does Narcolepsy Cause Anxiety?

Not many systemic studies have been conducted on anxiety disorders in narcolepsy and what little material is available, it holds conflicting results. However, there has been an increase in the interest in psychiatric conditions in narcolepsy. Many researchers believe that there is an overrepresentation of mood disorders in narcolepsy. (1)

In the few cases studied, about one third of the patients reported having experienced mood disorders. However, there was not an increase in or prevalence of formal mood disorders like depression etc. more than half of the people who suffered from narcolepsy had panic and anxiety attacks. Some people had anxiety disorder. Also, a social phobia was seen in some people. Factors like age, sex, duration of the onset of illness or medicines used had no effect on the signs and symptoms of anxiety or other mood disorders. (1)

Anxiety and panic attacks, social phobia are commonly seen to be affecting people with narcolepsy. Many signs and symptoms of mood disorders are present in people with narcolepsy; however, there is no occurrence or incidence of major depression. Anxiety and panic attacks and other mood disorders are often the secondary complications as a result of symptoms of narcolepsy.

Some research shows that narcolepsy is caused due to the defective signalling of hypocretin. Hypocretin is also associated with stress regulation as well as addiction. This association may possibly explain the increased anxiety and panic attacks and other mood disorders in people with narcolepsy. (1)

How Do I Know If I Have Narcolepsy?

There are other signs and symptoms seen in narcolepsy. These may become worse and worse for the beginning few years and then may continue throughout the life. These may include-

Excessive Sleepiness During The Day-

  • People suffering from this condition encounter a sleep episode abruptly
  • You may fall asleep suddenly in the midst of a conversation and may wake up in a few minutes to an hour
  • After the episode you may feel refreshed only to feel sleepy again in a short while
  • There may be a reduction in focus and alertness
  • The excessive sleepiness during the daytime may interfere with your routine activities and may create difficulties for you in concentrating in your work (2)


  • This is a term used for an abrupt loss of muscle tone
  • This may cause incomplete or complete weakness in muscles,
  • This muscle weakness may last for up to a few minutes
  • This condition is uncontrollable
  • It is usually triggered by very strong and powerful emotions like joy and anger
  • Cataplexy is not seen in everyone with narcolepsy (2)

Sleep Paralysis-

  • There may be a temporary loss of movement when falling asleep or after waking up
  • This may last from a few seconds to a few minutes
  • Though these episodes are brief they can feel very terrible
  • However, sleep paralysis is seen in many other people who do not suffer from narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is not the only reason behind sleep paralysis (2)


  • Hallucinations may appear in narcolepsy people while they fall asleep or while they wake up
  • These hallucinations may be frightening as one may be still awake while beginning to dream and may feel as if it is happening in reality (2)


Narcolepsy may cause anxiety and panic attacks in people. Many signs and symptoms of other mood disorders are seen in people with narcolepsy. Major depression is not seen though in most cases.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 16, 2019

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