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Narcolepsy - Complications of narcolepsy

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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If you have narcolepsy, it should not cause serious or long-term health problems. However, it may have a significant impact on your daily life.

Sometimes, people with narcolepsy find it difficult to deal with the condition on an emotional level.

Work and school

You may find it difficult to concentrate at work or school because narcolepsy can make you feel very drowsy during the day.

Although narcolepsy does not affect intelligence, a child with the condition may find it difficult to keep up with their classmates or do their homework if they continually feel drowsy.

If other people do not understand your condition, they may think you are lazy, lethargic or rude. You should therefore explain your condition to your friends, colleagues and employer so they understand how your symptoms affect you.


Some people with narcolepsy find the condition affects their relationships. Excessive drowsiness can lead to loss of libido (a low sex drive). Men with narcolepsy may also experience impotence (an inability to get and maintain an erection).

Emotional withdrawal

If you have cataplexy (a sudden loss of muscle control) as a symptom of narcolepsy, you may find it is triggered during intense emotions, such as excitement, laughter or anger.

As cataplexy can be embarrassing and disorienting, you may avoid situations where your emotions are likely to be triggered. This may leave you feeling isolated.

If you have to stop driving due to having narcolepsy, it may add to your feelings of isolation. Not driving may make it more difficult for you to get around and to socialise with others.


You should tell your GP if you have narcolepsy and it is making you feel depressed or low.

Your GP will be able to advise how you can minimise the effect narcolepsy has on your day-to-day life. They will also be able to put you in touch with a narcolepsy organisation or support group, such as Narcolepsy UK.

Read more about depression.

Medical Review: June 05, 2012
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