Eating Disorders Linked to Narcolepsy

Florence Cardinal Health Guide March 12, 2008
  • Narcolepsy is a disabling sleep disorder that causes extreme daytime sleepiness, sudden loss of muscular control when in an emotional state (cataplexy), nightmares and hallucinations.

     

    A recent study conducted by the Netherlands' Radboud University, headed by Hal Droogleever Fortuyn, shows that victims of narcolepsy also often suffer from eating disorders as well. Those who did not have all the symptoms of an eating disorder still admitted to having some of the symptoms, including a craving for food and episodes of binge eating. The binge eating, of course, causes another problem - obesity - which is a prominent symptom of narcolepsy.

     

    These eating disorders, coupled with the narcolepsy, had a highly negative influence on the patients. Antidepressants also increased interference in lifestyle.

     

    The study suggests that "the eating disorder is an integral part of the narcolepsy phenotype and not a pure consequence of the obesity per se." Narcoleptics with anhedonia (the inability to enjoy pleasure and loss of interest in daily activities) were more likely to suffer from eating disorders.


    Eating disorders noted in the narcolepsy patients included:

     

    • Anorexia Nervosa - An intense fear of weight gain and a false image of body weight that causes the victim to live in a state of near starvation.
    • Bulimia Nervosa - A history of continual binge eating, with each binge followed by self-disgust and the need to [urge the body of the food, either by vomiting, the use of laxatives, or any method that leaves the stomach empty.
    • Nocturnal Eating Disorder - This could be classed as either an eating disorder or a sleep disorder. The victim gets up in the night and eats whatever he/she can find. In the morning, there's no memory of the binge, but there's usually a mess of crumbs and spilled food as well as discomfort from a too full stomach as evidence.
    • Various combinations of the above eating disorders.