Automatic Behavior


Definition - What does Automatic Behavior mean?

Automatic behavior is a pattern of behavior that individuals exhibit during semi-conscious states of wakefulness, lacking perceptual awareness cues or voluntary control to perform activities that require normal alertness during the day. Recurring automatic behavior episodes are often symptomatic of narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that falls under a subclass of hypersomnias, characteristic of sporadic bouts of sleepiness during the daytime.

WorkplaceTesting explains Automatic Behavior

Although narcolepsy is a rare sleep disorder, automatic behavior is a symptom that is comparable to seizures where intervals of semi-conscious actions and amnesia correlate to blackouts. When making a diagnosis, cataplexy is an epiphenomenon where strong, emotional responses (i.e., anger, laughter) are catalysts for sudden muscle loss, influencing motor reflexes and speech pattern deficits either on one or two isolated occasions or a daily basis. Narcolepsy can carry etiological implications, suggesting the presence of an underlying neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis, head trauma, or stroke.

Biorhythms cover two distinctive sleep stages including non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM), serving as the locus for fluctuating bioelectric activity beginning with slow brainwave patterns (NREM) and then dream sequences (REM). While narcolepsy remains idiopathic, the deficiency of a biochemical agent called hypocretin might be a contributing factor to narcolepsy on the premise that it helps regulate REM sleep. Consequently, narcoleptics are predisposed to lapse into immediate REM sleep, heightening risk factors where automatic behavior during random circumstances is compounded by excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis (temporary immobility), and hypnagogic hallucinations occurring at the point of sleep or hypnopompic hallucinations that occur upon waking.

With narcolepsy, automatic behavior can pose liability issues for employers, jeopardizing personal and public health and safety where chance accidents that involve handling equipment and materials or operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) can lead to job insecurity. Moreover, perceived biases surrounding automatic behavior can cause colleagues to associate narcolepsy with lethargy or poor work ethic.

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