People with epilepsy are more likely to suffer from other issues, including mental health concerns. Nearly 30 percent of people with epilepsy also have psychiatric problems. Depression and anxiety are common, and epileptics also face a higher risk of suicide.
There are biological and psychosocial reasons for the higher rate of mood disorders in this population. Biologically, both issues are linked to similar brain areas. Brain abnormalities can be a contributing factor in epilepsy, mood disorders or both.
As for the emotional aspect, epilepsy is usually chronic condition that affects quality of life. Seizures can be unpredictable and disruptive, and side effects of medication can also affect moods.
For all of these reasons, psychiatric services may be necessary to help people with epilepsy.
Seton Mind Institute
Living with Epilepsy
Common challenges for people with epilepsy include:
- Physical constraints
- Low self-esteem
- Fewer educational options
- Fewer work options
- Social isolation
- Inability to drive
- Perceived or real stigma
Many people with epilepsy suffer from mood disorders, but symptoms may be different than in the general population. It’s important for a careful psychiatric evaluation to be done. Annual screening for depression should be a routine part of care. Regular screening can help detect and treat mood disorders before they become serious or life-threatening.
Psychiatric services are a vital part of epilepsy treatment. A psychiatrist can help people manage emotional problems that commonly occur with seizures. Controlling depression, anxiety and similar issues can greatly improve quality of life.
The area of the brain where seizures occur can also develop other problems. It’s a good idea for people living with epilepsy to keep a diary that tracks their physical and emotional health. Keeping a daily record helps individuals notice any changes:
- Learning, concentration or memory problems
- Problems at school
- Problems sleeping
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Unexplained injuries or falls
Any of these changes should be reported to a doctor, who may decide to run diagnostic tests. It’s advisable to share this health diary with a doctor.
People living with epilepsy juggle a mix of symptoms. Treatment plans can be tailored to meet individual needs. It’s important that all of their healthcare providers collaborate with each other, as a multifaceted approach can offer the best outcome.
Therapy can help people with epilepsy cope with some of the emotional strain. Talking with a trained professional can help to reduce psychological stress and improve mood. People can learn strategies to better cope with some of the unavoidable challenges.
Antidepressants or other medication may be prescribed. Psychotropic drugs can offer relief from some symptoms and help to stabilize mood. Sometimes a combination of both medication and talk therapy is the most effective. Psychiatrists should work closely with each person’s primary doctor to evaluate, diagnose and treat any conditions that arise.
Epilepsy support groups can also be a good resource, as people with epilepsy sometimes feel isolated. These groups are available for children, teens or adults. Joining a group of people with similar challenges can benefit overall wellbeing. Support groups can be an effective way for people living with epilepsy to build meaningful community and form friendships.
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