Dissociative Symptoms are Highly Prevalent in Adults with Narcolepsy Type 1

Laury Quaedackers (Corresponding author), Hal Droogleever Fortuyn, Merel van Gilst, Martijn Lappenschaar, Sebastiaan Overeem

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Introduction: The core symptoms of narcolepsy such as excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy are well known. However, there is mounting evidence for a much broader symptom spectrum, including psychiatric symptoms. Disordered sleep has previously been linked with dissociative symptoms, which may imply that patients with narcolepsy are more prone to develop such symptoms. Objectives: To investigate the frequency of dissociative symptoms in adult patients with narcolepsy type 1 compared to population controls. Methods: In a retrospective case control study, sixty adult patients fulfilling the criteria for narcolepsy type 1 and 120 matched population control subjects received a structured interview using the Schedules for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry (SCAN) to assess dissociative symptoms and disorders. Results: A majority of narcolepsy patients reported dissociative symptoms, and even fulfilled the DSM-IV-TR criteria of a dissociative disorder (62% vs 1% in controls, p < .001). Most frequently reported symptoms were "dissociative amnesia" (37% vs 1%, p < .001) and "dissociative disorder of voluntary movement" (32% vs 1%, p < .001). Conclusion: Dissociative symptoms are strikingly prevalent in adult patients with narcolepsy type 1. Although a formal diagnosis of dissociation disorder should not be made as the symptoms can be explained by narcolepsy as an underlying condition, the findings do illustrate the extent and severity of the dissociative symptoms. As for the pathophysiological mechanism, there may be symptom overlap between narcolepsy and dissociation disorder. However, there may also be a more direct link between disrupted sleep and dissociative symptoms. In either case, the high frequency of occurrence of dissociative symptoms should result in an active inquiry by doctors, to improve therapeutic management and guidance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-73
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Sleep Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The resources for collecting the Nijmegen Health Area 2 Study data were provided by the Dutch Prevention Foundation (Grant No. 28-816-2) and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (Grant No. VWS- 64-4528-545272-299857-98). We wish to thank all of the patients and control subjects who volunteered for this research.


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