What to Know About Epilepsy and Mental Health
November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. This is a very important topic that needs more awareness because it is more common than people realize. According to the article called “What is Epilepsy?” from the Epilepsy Foundation website, epilepsy is “the fourth most common neurological disorder and affects people of all ages.”1 Read this article to learn about how epilepsy is linked to mood disorders, ways those diagnosed with the condition can cope, and how you can support a loved one with epilepsy.
What Is Epilepsy?
According to the Epilepsy Foundation website, epilepsy is diagnosed when a person has “two unprovoked seizures (or one unprovoked seizure with the likelihood of more) that were not caused by some known and reversible medical condition.”1 There are three groups of seizures: focal onset, generalized onset, and unknown onset.2 The degree of awareness and motor function before and after a seizure varies by the group of seizure, as does the duration that a seizure lasts, and the amount of damage caused by the seizure.
Why Is Epilepsy Embarrassing?
All types of seizures can be very embarrassing. Here is a list of four reasons people might feel ashamed:
- After a seizure, the person might notice terrified looks and/or hear rude comments from bystanders.
- If a person experiences an aura (also known as a warning sign for a seizure), he or she might fear judgments when trying to explain it to someone nearby.3
- During a seizure, a person might exhibit strange behaviors such as lip-smacking, tongue-biting, and/or slurred speech.4
- Some people might accidentally urinate during a seizure. Depending on the situation, he or she might not be able to avoid being seen by others.
As you can imagine, experiencing a seizure can cause so much humiliation that a person would want to hide. He or she might have extreme anxiety about another seizure starting.
Ways to Cope with Fear and Embarrassment from Epilepsy Seizures
In the summer of 2006, I experienced my first grand-mal seizure, so I know how humiliating and scary a seizure can be, especially in a crowd of strangers. At the beginning of my diagnosis, I wanted to isolate myself so that no one else would see me have a seizure. But after I got my seizures under control, I learned many things people can do to alleviate anxiety and depression after a seizure:
- Wear a medical bracelet or necklace at all times in case of a seizure.
- At the beginning of a diagnosis, follow up with the neurologist regularly.
- Take medications at all times to avoid future seizures.
- Record specific times seizures occur so that you can notice a pattern and any possible triggers.
- Talk about your condition with people you trust.
- Practice good self-care to manage mood disorder and epilepsy symptoms.
- If stress triggers seizures, talk to a therapist and psychiatrist.
How to Support Someone with Epilepsy
Whether you are a family member, friend, teacher, coworker, or classmate with someone who has epilepsy, know that there are many things you can do to help him or her feel more at ease. Some of these things include the following:
- Show that you appreciate the person’s disclosure without automatically panicking.
- Ask the person about his or her seizures.
- Avoid making assumptions about the effects of seizures.
- Take time to research the condition and different types of seizures.
- If a seizure occurs, family members and friends should offer to accompany their loved one to a neurologist appointment.
- After a seizure (not during), place the person on a soft surface in a clear area. Then roll the person on his or her side.
- Remember that even with epilepsy, your loved one can live a normal and healthy life.
To learn more about epilepsy, visit the Epilepsy Foundation website.
- Epilepsy Foundation, “What is Epilepsy?” Accessed November 18, 2019.
- Kiriakopoulos, E. and Shafer, P., “Types of Seizures”, Epilepsy Foundation. March 20, 2017.
- WebMD, “What Is a Seizure with Aura?” August 1, 2017.
- Pietrangelo, A., “Everything You Need to Know About Epilepsy.” Healthline. January 9, 2017.
Lueck, M. (2019, November 18). What to Know About Epilepsy and Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/toughtimes/2019/11/what-to-know-about-epilepsy-and-mental-health