Our goal was to validate a self-administered narcolepsy questionnaire focusing on cataplexy. Nine hundred and eight three consecutive subjects entering the Stanford Sleep Disorder Clinic completed the questionnaire. Clinic physicians reported on the presence or absence of "clear-cut" cataplexy. Responses to 51 cataplexy-related questionnaire items were compared between subjects with clear-cut cataplexy (n = 63) and all other patients (n = 920). As previously reported, a large portion of the non-narcoleptic population was found to experience muscle weakness with various intense emotions (1.8% to 18.0%) or athletic activities (26.2% to 28.8%). Factor analysis and Receiver Operating Characteristic Curve (ROC) analysis were used to determine the most predictive items for clear-cut cataplexy. Most strikingly, cataplexy was best differentiated from other types of muscle weakness when triggered by only three typical situations: "when hearing and telling a joke," "while laughing," or "when angry." Face or neck, rather than limbs, were also more specifically involved in clear-cut cataplexy. Other items, such as length of attacks, bilaterality, and alteration in consciousness, were poorly predictive. A simple decision tree was constructed to isolate high-(91.7%) and low-(0.6%) risk groups for cataplexy. This questionnaire will be used to increase diagnostic consistency across clinical centers, thus providing more homogenous subject pools for clinical and basic research studies.