Epilepsy and Mental Health - Epilepsy Queensland - share your story

Epilepsy and Mental Health

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects the brain and causes seizures. While epilepsy is not a psychological condition, it can put individuals with a diagnosis of epilepsy at a higher risk for developing a mental health condition.

A mental health condition involves our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

While epilepsy is not a psychological condition, it can put individuals with a diagnosis of epilepsy at a higher risk for developing a mental health condition. It is reported that depression, anxiety and other psychiatric comorbidities are common. A recent study revealed almost 50% of those living with epilepsy reported clinically significant anxiety symptoms and 33% clinical depression.

Epilepsy and Depression

Put simply, the brain activity that causes seizures can lead to depressive moods and the stress of living with a chronic condition can worsen feelings of depression and anxiety.

In people with epilepsy, depression can be caused by one or a combination of factors including:

  • an emotional reaction to having the disorder or being treated differently because of it
  • the epilepsy itself
  • the cause of the epilepsy, such as head injury or bleed in the brain
  • unwanted medication effects

Epilepsy may be more difficult to manage if you have depression because depression is sometimes known to make seizures more frequent and can take away the motivation to manage them effectively.

Signs of Anxiety or Depression

Signs of anxiety can include but are not limited to, feeling restless, on-edge, easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, irritableness, headaches, unexplained pains in stomach and muscles, feelings of worry, and difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Signs of depression include but are not limited to continuous low mood or sadness, feeling hopeless and helpless, having low self-esteem, feeling guilt-ridden, tearfulness, feeling irritable, no motivation or interest in things, minimal enjoyment out of life, feeling anxious or worried, disturbed sleep, changes in appetite or weight, and having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself.

While symptoms can be hard to manage, there are ways to help reduce symptoms while getting appropriate treatment by professionals such as your GP, neurologist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

Treatment and Coping Strategies

Both depression and anxiety are treatable conditions with a range of treatment options. Treatment options can include medication, sometimes therapy, as well as other lifestyle factors, including promoting better sleep and physical exercise.

Some coping strategies can include:

  • Deep breathing techniques and meditation
  • Grounding exercises
  • Visualization techniques
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Yoga/exercise
  • Journaling
  • Support Groups

Where to Seek Support

If support is needed, there are resources to help and refer to the appropriate paths for your circumstances.

24/7 Crisis Services-

Mental Health Access Line: 1300 642 255
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Services: 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
Kids Helpine: 1800 551 800
1800 Respect: 1800 737 732

Remember, our caring Support Workers are available to chat Monday to Friday 9am- 4pm about any concerns you have relating to epilepsy on 1300 852 853. Alternatively, the National Epilepsy Support Service operates Monday to Saturday, 9.00am to 7.00pm (AEST) on 1300 761 487.
Epilepsy Queensland