Laughter-triggered muscle weakness

Kay Underwood, 20, of Leicestershire, England, frequently falls over with laughter. Literally. She suffers from the medical condition cataplexy, which manifests as sudden muscle weakness that can be triggered by intense emotional experiences like anger, surprise, and laughter. She is also narcoleptic. From BBC News:
The University of Lincoln architecture student has in the past collapsed 40 times in a single day.

She said many people think that she is joking when her condition does make her fall over.

Ms Underwood was diagnosed as having cataplexy a year ago, but believes she has had it for about four or five years.

She said: "I think a lot of people, if I've told them about it and they've not seen it, would quite like to see me do it (collapse), so they try to make me laugh.
Laughter-triggered cataplexy (BBC News)


  1. Poor woman!

    I used to have a roommate who thought it was really funny to scare/surprise me, because I would collapse (I always thought that it was a relatively normal reaction, though – do other people not get weak when scared/surprised?).

    It sucked. And was kind of funny. But mostly it sucked.

  2. Rather than create a “gay bomb” perhaps a “ROFL bomb” (deployed by a ROFLcopter no doubt) would be a better choice?

  3. Reminds me of “excited narcolepsy” that occurs in some dogs– you can’t play with them because if they get too worked up they immediately pass out, essentially the same thing as goat myotonia, as pointed out above.

  4. I think that everybody has this in one form or another. It’s just a matter of degrees. I don’t collapse from laughter, but if I laugh very hard, I can feel some general temporary weakness. If someone holds me down and vigorously tickles me, my ability to hold in urine evaporates as I lose control of those muscles.

  5. That sounds like somebody I know. Especially the part about people telling jokes. They say their bit, and then peer sideways to check for the reaction. You get to feel a little conflicted over it. Everybody likes a good laugh, but you feel kind of guilty for hoping somebody will fall from it.

  6. #11 “If someone holds me down and vigorously tickles me, my ability to hold in urine evaporates as I lose control of those muscles.”

    Apreche: Who’s got two thumbs and is going to sleep better at night knowing that info…

  7. A good friend of mine is a narcoleptic with cataplexy. It’s considered good form to be prepared to catch her if you think you’re about to surprise her with something funny.

  8. One of my good friends in College suffered from this….in fact, my other good friend made her pass out so many times, they became a couple!

  9. I have cataplexy — not to the degree that this young lady does — and for those of us who suffer the attacks it is no laughing matter. Mine is controlled by an antidepressant (Paxil — you may have heard of it). I take another medication for narcolepsy (Modafinil — a popular drug for those who want to stay alert without the side effects of amphetamines).

    A mild attack may result in slurred speech, unfocused vision or a slight dipping of the head as the neck muscles lose strength. A stronger attack results in dropping anything you may be holding, and weakness in the legs. A full attack drops you like a marionette whose strings are slashed, and it may take some time to recover full use of your own muscles.

    Narcolepsy is what most people see, as we fall asleep at some of the strangest times. The condition also includes sleep paralysis, in which you wake up but can’t move, and hypnogogic hallucinations, in which you often can’t tell the difference between dream and reality.

    Normal sleepers may experience these last two oddities on rare occasions. I suspect that is where a lot of these alien abductions, bedtime ghost sightings and even the centuries-old tales of incubus and succubus incidents actually derive from.

  10. If this happens far away enough from a Hospital, you may get airlifted by the ROFLCOPTER for medical attention.

  11. TRAILBOSS @21, Thanks for posting from personal experience. Interesting thought about narcolepsy and alien abductions/incubus/succubus experiences. Harvard psychologist Susan Clancy’s book Abducted may cover that. I haven’t read it, but it looks quite interesting.

  12. The Wikipedia entry on Succubus agrees with TRAILBOSS: (I just happen to come across this last night. Don’t ask.)

    The word “succubus” comes from an alteration of the Late Latin succuba meaning “strumpet”. The word itself is derived from the Latin prefix “sub-” which means “below, underneath”, and the verb “cubo” which means “I lie”. So a succubus is someone who lies under another person, whereas an incubus (Latin “in-” in this case stands for “on top”) is someone who lies on top of another person.

    Mare was also a term used to describe the sighing, suffocative panting, or an intercepted utterance, with a sense of pressure across the chest, which occurs during sleep. These symptoms were also thought to be an incubus (or succubus), an evil preternatural being, causing nightmares and/or nocturnal emissions. This phenomenon is now thought to be an experience of sleep paralysis.

    I empathize. Though from the looks of SAM’s favorite video, one would seem to be the life of the party, I would think it would be hard to, for instance: listen to / watch a comedian or generally hang out (I have some really funny friends.)

    I worked with a guy who was narcoleptic doing tech support. We’d have to jump into his cube and take over his calls (putting ours on hold) when we’d hear him fall asleep in the middle of one. Poor guy. They eventually fired him for it (which was a real shame since he was honest about it when they hired him.) He was gonna sue their pants off but they went Chapter 11.

  13. mdhatter @6 – She’s British, and so, unless you’re referring to her donkey or mule, it is her ‘arse’ which ‘must be just about laughed off’

    When dealing with serious issues like this, you should, out of respect, at least ~try~ to research the facts.

Comments are closed.