Epilepsy was one of those things I didn’t think much of, until I got diagnosed with it that is. Even then it took me such a long time to figure out what it meant for me, my identity and my lifestyle. A confusing time indeed. Living with epilepsy involves more than just managing physical symptoms. Epilepsy carries with it a web of psychological consequences that can significantly impact mental health. In my experience epilepsy and mental health have a bidirectional relationship, let’s take a closer peek…
Epilepsy is characterised by recurrent seizures that can lead to altered levels of consciousness. Epileptic seizures can be partial or focal, they can originate in specific areas of the brain, or affect both hemispheres. The spectrum of seizures is wide, ranging from subtle twitching and changes in senses to confusion, unresponsiveness, convulsions, and even loss of consciousness. So basically, this condition (and the experiences that go with it) look entirely different for everyone.
The Mental Health Connection:
Epilepsy and mental health are completely intertwined. The aftermath of epileptic seizures can bring about so many different consequences. Exhaustion and confusion, can lead to feelings of vulnerability, frustration and depression. As can the anticipation of potential future seizures, this emotional weight can affect self-esteem and confidence, in most cases leaving people navigating a major loss of control over their lives. The unpredictability of seizures and the challenges of managing a chronic condition only make mental health struggles more apparent. Likely why epilepsy is often accompanied by comorbid mental health conditions, most notably anxiety and depression.
It’s not only the seizures though, the medications used to manage epilepsy frequently have side effects that impact mood, cognition, and overall well-being. The acceptance of a lifelong diagnosis requiring medication, this can be a huge pill to swallow, literally! It was for me. The long list of side effects that come along with anti-epileptic drugs often require individuals to make significant lifestyle changes.
Moving Towards Empowerment:
Living with epilepsy is a multidimensional experience that encompasses both physical and psychological aspects. It’s crucial to acknowledge the impact on mental health and work towards holistic well-being. Seeking professional help, such as counseling, can provide a safe space to address the emotional challenges tied to epilepsy.
Building a supportive community can be transformative. Connecting with others who understand the journey can alleviate feelings of isolation and provide a platform for sharing coping strategies. Empowerment comes from education, understanding, and acceptance – both from oneself and from the world around us. During my diagnosis and the years that followed I benefited greatly from connecting with others via blogs, reddit and online forums. There are so many online and reading other peoples expereinces made me feel so much less alone.
If you are epileptic, have experienced a lifechanging medical diagnosis, have an invisible health condition, or are required to take medication on a regular basis and are looking for someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Low Cost Counselling – Strong Counselling
More info can be found at:
Mayo Clinic. (2022). Seizures.
World Health Organization. (2019). Epilepsy: a public health imperative.