Narcolepsy on National Geographic

This week, narcolepsy will be in the limelight on the National Geographic program Taboo: Strange Behavior.  The show will air on the National Geographic channel on June 24, 2012 from 10:00 – 11:00 pm EST.  This episode follows the life of one narcoleptic man, Dee Daud, who has a severe form of narcolepsy with cataplexy. A preview of the episode can be found here

Dee Daud featured on Taboo: Strange Behavior

Narcolepsy may present with or without cataplexy.  Cataplexy is a loss of muscle tone (without loss of consciousness) often in response to emotional triggers. Not all narcolepsy presents with cataplexy as does Dee’s, and not all cases of narcolepsy are as severe as Dee’s.  Nonetheless, I am excited about it being featured on a prime time TV show.

Taboo’s self-declared mission is to “journey beyond your comfort zone to explore behaviors and lifestyles that are acceptable in some cultures but forbidden, illegal or reviled in others.” In this season, topics such as “murderabilia,” extreme tattooing and scarification, polyamory, and “furry culture” are presented alongside individuals living with Tourette’s syndrome, autism, and narcolepsy.  The concept of presenting rare medical diseases alongside other “taboo” behaviors (as if narcolepsy is a culturally taboo lifestyle choice) seems to me to belittle, dramaticize, and promote further sterotypification of individuals living with disabilities.  That said, I am excited to watch the program, and am confident that Dee and the program itself will help to promote awareness of narcolepsy and cataplexy; and, awareness of any kind can’t be bad.

After the program, I will be posting a more detailed recap of the show and how it may help or hurt the public view of narcoleptic individuals or narcolepsy in general, and I would love to hear your thoughts on the concept behind featuring narcolepsy on a program such as Taboo: Strange Behaviors.


After watching Taboo: Strange Behaviors I am pleasantly surprised.  National Geographic presented Dee’s story along with Paul Stevenson (a man with Tourette’s and an accomplished Tourette’s advocate.), Bethany Scheiderman (a young girl with Trichotillomania), and autistic friends Larry Bissonnette (who is also an accomplished artist) and Tracy, who are advocates for individuals with autism, recently creating a documentary for autism awareness called My Classic Life.

Overall, the program was moving, inspiring, and very well done. At the end, the program even raised the question of whether it was individuals with disabilities whose behaviors were taboo, or if rather the reaction by society is what should be deemed taboo.

Many thanks to National Geographic and Dee Daud for raising awareness about narcolepsy (and other disabilities)!

3 thoughts on “Narcolepsy on National Geographic

  1. I completely agree with you in giving kudos to Nat’l G. I watched the show expecting the worst & was more than pleasantly surprised.

    My husband watched it with me….I’ve educated him on what cataplexy is & on how severe it can become but since I’ve had only mild cataplexy episodes he really hadn’t appreciated the true fear I had of it getting worse. Watching his face while he watched the show was really hard for me…he finally “got it” & now he is an absolute tyrant with me when it comes to what foods I put in my mouth. 🙂 Last year when I made a change to low carb/gluten free to handle the narcolepsy he was an absolute rock of support for me & has remained so throughout the last year but now that rock is a mountain. Gotta love him! He has also become more supportive of my desire to put the word out there that narcoleptics don’t have to live a “taboo” life.

    I’m so very proud that you’ve begun this blog, the science of it all can sometimes overwhelm me but every time I read, and re-read, your posts I learn something new and I then share it with friends and family who in turn learn something too.

  2. There were a lot of people with narcolepsy that were offended by the disorder being featured on a show called “Taboo,” but I think it is exactly where it needed to be shown. The way NatGeo presented it was that it is considered taboo behavior by the general public but that it SHOULDN’T be that way since it’s a neurological disorder. “He’s not lazy OR crazy.” Best line of the show.

    My dad watched the show and was hit fairly hard by it. I’ve been trying to get him to understand some of my struggles. I think seeing/hearing it from someone else helped this mission.

  3. At one point, in the context of taking classes in polysomnography, I noticed some real parallels between symptoms of narcolepsy and schizophrenia and did a little research. It seems that it is often difficult to tell one from the other diagnostically and that having both is not unheard of. Treatment for one condition may be palliative for the other. What both have in common is prevalence in people with gluten and casein sensitivity and orexin imbalance. It looks to me that sustained and unrecognized gluten and dairy sensitivity may lead to destruction of orexin production.

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