WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A teenager in the U.K. suffers from a rare brain disorder that causes her to faint every time someone cracks a joke.
- Seventeen-year-old Billie Hodgson, of Sheffield, England was diagnosed last year of cataplexy.
- Cataplexy is a condition characterized by a sudden and transient episode of muscle weakness accompanied by full conscious awareness, typically triggered by emotions such as laughing, crying, or terror, according to Medical News Today.
A British teenager with a rare brain disorder is speaking out to raise awareness about her unusual health condition.
Billie Hodgson, of Sheffield, suffers from cataplexy — a condition characterized by sudden and uncontrollable muscle weakness or paralysis whenever the affected person experiences a strong emotion, such as excitement or laughter.
The 17-year-old was diagnosed in March 2019 but she reportedly fainted for the first time when she was 14.
“I remember once walking through school with a friend and we were laughing, then I just fell to my knees,” Hodgson said. “Everyone thought I’d tripped but I knew something wasn’t right. At first we didn’t think it was that serious and the doctor told me everyone shakes when they laugh.”
Hodgson said she felt mixed emotions after being diagnosed.
“I was relieved that I finally knew what it was and could then start treatment, but at the same time scared because I didn’t know how much it would affect my life,” the teen said. “It’s also a lifelong illness which meant it was quite a big thing to accept.”
Cataplexy is a result of narcolepsy and affects about 22,500 Britons. Sadly, the disorder has forced Hodgson to keep her distance from her friends, who love to joke around.
“I’m a bubbly person so to go from that to feeling like I can’t laugh is really strange,” she admitted. “I feel like I can’t be me. We joke about it like friends do because it’s a funny thing in itself, and I have to make light of it.”
Due to her condition, she reportedly gets tired easily and usually sleeps at 7 p.m. Throughout the night, she often finds herself tossing and turning in her bed and waking up for periods that can last up to two hours, the Daily Mail reports. As a result, Hodgson said she is sleepy during the day and naps in the afternoon to catch up on lost sleep.
Her cataplexy has also affected her dreams of being a midwife.
“It’s stopping me from doing what I really want to do and now I don’t know what to apply for at university,” she said. “I’m anxious about going out, and I’m not allowed to drive.”
Though there is no known cure for the brain disorder, Hodgson said she just wants people to be aware that it exists.
“I want to show cataplexy isn’t like what people stereotypically think,” she said. “It can have a major impact on someone’s life.”