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Monday, August 15, 2011

Do men with narcolepsy have major intimacy issues?

That is an excellent question...and a difficult one to answer. Not knowing what perspective you are coming from (the man, a girlfriend) or what you mean specifically by "intimacy issues," I will answer as best as I can.

To be fair, men with narcolepsy do not have any more problems with intimacy than women with narcolepsy do. Narcolepsy itself does not affect the ability to connect with another person mentally or physically.

On the other hand, certain aspects of living with narcolepsy can absolutely affect the way we handle relationships and deal with a partner.

For one, having narcolepsy means not getting the sleep you need. Anyone who has ever been overtired and in need if sleep knows it makes you cranky, irritable, and pretty much like you just want to be alone with a blankie and your pillow. For people who don't have a sleep disorder, that moodiness generally goes away once you get the sleep you need. With narcolepsy, that never happens. It is often hard for us to be relaxed and truly enjoy company when we are always so tired.

Secondly, we know we are acting nuts! We feel guilty when we can't control our snippy outbursts, and we feel guilty we can't be the peppy, awake, happy, spontaneous people our friends deserve to hang out with.

For men, this can be especially difficult ultimate, because we still live in a society that raises boys to believe they are ultimately supposed to be the caretakers in the relationship. Many get very down when they feel like they can't provide for their significant other, whether financially or otherwise.

Also, being chronically ill means many of us have been burned badly by people we trusted to support and love us unconditionally. It is extremely hard to trust another person and allow yourself to get close to someone when you have been called lazy and useless by family members and friends, or had doctors brush you off when they thought you were exaggerating.

So there is a lot of plain emotional baggage that comes with narcolepsy, aside from any separate personal issues someone might bring to a relationship.

As for physical relations, men especially may be hesitant for a couple of reasons. One, cataplexy (loss of muscle control) is generally triggered by strong emotion, and what is stronger than love? Many men have their first experience with cataplexy during an orgasm. It's an awful lot of pressure to want to please your partner, enjoy yourself, and hope you don't/ try not to collapse on top of her!

Finally,although I have not read anything scientific or anecdotal about this, there is a slight possibility the condition or medications can cause, asked from lack of libido, Ed. I mention it as a possibility merely because the part of the brain that is destroyed in narcolepsy also has a role in blood pressure, not to mention the stimulants prescribed for narcolepsy can also mess with blood pressure, so that could be an issue.

The best thing to do in a relationship is always to talk to your partner, be direct and honest, and don't be afraid to seek professional help for any of the problems I've mentioned. Counseling is a good way to help open up and learn communication, and knowing you cafree enough to try is always a good signal to someone who is hesitant.

Ask me anything