Epilepsy: Mental Health

Emotional wellness is important for everyone. It involves being aware of emotional and behavioral changes while still finding ways to enjoy life despite these changes.

Mood disorders, like depression and anxiety, can directly influence our emotional and physical well-being. Researchers have found that people living with epilepsy are twice as likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to people without epilepsy. The exact relationship between mood disorders and epilepsy is complicated. There seems to be a connection between epilepsy and psychological factors that contribute to an increased risk of depression and anxiety in people living with epilepsy.

How would I know if I am depressed?

Depression is a psychological condition that affects your feelings, behaviors, and thoughts. Being able to recognize changes to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is a great first step towards seeking help and support.

Here are some common symptoms of depression:

  • Unexplained feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and/or helplessness for long periods
  • Changes to sleeping habits (over or under sleeping)
  • Changes to appetite (increase or decrease)
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, relationships, and social engagements
  • Decreased motivation and concentration at work or school
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life
  • Feeling like your life isn’t worth living

How would I know if I have an anxiety disorder?

Many people will experience anxiety at certain points of life. However, if uncontrolled, an anxiety disorder is when your anxiety becomes so great that you feel very scared or uneasy in situations that are not dangerous. For example, you avoid going out in public in fear that you may have seizure. Another example may be allowing the worry of when your next seizure may occur to consume you, causing you to devote all your focus to the “what if?” Worrying may cause you to perform poorly at school. All the worry may cause you to become physically sick or cause increased seizures. .

Here are some common symptoms of anxiety:

  • Constant, unprovoked feelings of nervousness, distress, or unease
  • Avoidance of situations, social interactions, or relationships that may provoke uneasiness
  • People may also experience panic attacks. Panic attacks are extreme anxiety with episodes of intense feelings of nervousness, fear, and/or sudden onset of bodily symptoms (i.e. sweating, hyperventilation, fast heartbeats, and flushing of the skin)

What should I do if I am experiencing symptoms of a mental illness?

If you start to experience any signs or symptoms of depression or anxiety, schedule an appointment with your health care provider (HCP) right away. If you are experiencing any thoughts of hurting yourself or others, seek urgent medical attention at your nearest emergency room or call 9-1-1 or 9-8-8.

How can I manage my symptoms?

Learning how to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression is just as important as learning how to recognize them. Safe and successful treatment for depression and anxiety requires professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist. However, there are things that you can do to help lessen your symptoms!

Tips for symptom management:

  • Stay connected. Having positive social or family relationships will help you feel supported during difficult times.
  • Ask for help. Everyone needs help every once and awhile. It’s OK to ask for help! Talk with the people you trust (friends, family, health care provider, etc.) about how you’re feeling. It’s never too early to express yourself, especially when people are willing to listen and help.
  • Don’t stop doing the things you love. This isn’t always easy to do, but it’s important to keep up with activities that make you happy!
  • Exercise regularly. Again this isn’t always easy. Motivation is hard. However, during exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins that are natural mood alleviators!
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Limit the use of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and keep (if possible) a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Adopt new strategies. Techniques such as meditation/relaxation, music/art therapy, or journaling are good ways to help you understand and manage your feelings!

If the negative feelings you’re experiencing do not lessen with these methods or start affecting your everyday life, you may need more professional support. We all need help sometimes – there are trained specialists and support groups readily available.

Additional Resources

The treatment for depression and/or anxiety depends on the individual, and how their overall health, safety, and day-to-day life is impacted. Just like epilepsy, treatment and therapy isn’t one size fits all and should be developed based on you as a person and your mental health goals. It is not uncommon for people to use medication (in addition to therapy) to help manage their depression and/or anxiety. If you are considering the use of medications, contact your health care provider (HCP) to discuss which medication would be best for you!

Support groups, counseling, and other resources:

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • SAMHSA: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • The JED Foundation
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

What if I’m having thoughts of ending my life?

1-800-273-TALK (8255)/ Asian Languages: 1-877-990-8585

Other Specific Prevention Lifelines

  • Asian LifeNet (Available in Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean & Fujinese): 1-877-990-8585
  • Hotline (24 hour line) (877) 990 8585
  • DeQH (Hotline for South Asian/Desi LGBTQ+) 908 367 3374
  • Person of Color Crisis Text Line: Text STEVE to 741-741 (mental health concern)
  • Trevor LGBTQ Lifeline: 866-488-7386 or text START to 678-678 (Suicide)
  • Crisis Text Line – Text “START” to 741741

You must remember that hurting yourself or ending your life is never the right thing to do, and that there are people who can help you.

Mental and emotional wellness is an important cornerstone to our daily life and involves us being aware of how changes may affect us. If you start experiencing changes to your mental and/or emotional health, please reach out – we’re here to help.