Epilepsy and Personality

There are many types of medical conditions that exist. Many of these are physical and you can see, but some are not. One of these conditions is that of epilepsy. Unfortunately the only way to know that one has this condition other than if they are wearing a medical bracelet is when one happens. Epilepsy and seizures can effect different areas of an individuals’ life. Here we will look at the relationship between epilepsy and personality.

As everyone knows, there are two main personality types. These are what are considered either an introvert or an extrovert. An extrovert is one who is a people person and is very outgoing, while an introvert is one who keeps more to themselves. You don’t have to be all one or the other, because you can be a bit of both.

One question that may come up at times is whether having epilepsy can or has possible changed an individual in some way concerning personality type, or even play a part in determining it. One thing which may be a factor is that of having something happen in public. Although many times, people may not even know what is happening, it is probably still embarrassing which could make one want to be more introverted. Regardless of if you are an introvert or extrovert by nature, this is still a hard thing to deal with. Also, having a traumatic event take place in ones’ life may lead to having a seizure as well. These are what are known as psychogenic non epileptic seizures, also called PNES for short. These can be either short or long term.

In one study, patients which had pnes were looked at. They were brought back 16 years after they had been diagnosed with the condition in order to look at any changes that may have taken place. This was determined through using questionnaires on psychological, dissociative, and personality traits. The results showed that those with persistent pnes were older and worse of functioning psychologically. These patients also had a decrease in extroversion. These results showed that age and being greatly introverted were at higher risk for continuous pnes.(1) Overall, this suggests the condition going both ways in that having pnes over time can lead to a higher level of introversion, while having this type of personality can also lead to having these type of seizures. Although this had to do with pnes which is not epileptic, there could still be a possibility of an epileptic seizure having a similar effect.

Changes in personality may lead to changes in other areas such as the way in which you interact with others, and your attitude. If allowed to, this can even effect ones’ level of self-esteem, confidence, and overall quality of life. Attitude is also another factor which may be effected. This would have to do wither one is an optimist or pessimist. The way in which you react to a situation will determine your overall attitude towards it. As everyone knows, it is much better to be optimistic as opposed to being pessimistic where you only see the negative aspect of things. Although this is true, making the choice to be optimistic can be difficult at times, and easy to allow yourself to dwell on the situation. Many times seizures people have may even be due to previous traumas that have occurred and they have had issues overcoming, anyone in a situation such as this should seek some type of psychological therapy (2). There are other resources that can be used as well including community for support whether it is in person or online, as well as materials such as books or videos that are offered.

In some ways, ones’ personality type as well as attitude may go along with one another. If you’re an extrovert, you’ll probably be more optimistic, while the opposite would be true for someone that is introverted, but this is not for certain. Anyone who has a medical condition will have challenges. One obstacle may be being able to know who you are as a person. Although there is a base concerning the type of person that you are as well as your strengths and weaknesses, we change every day, and should continue to discover new things about ourselves. The previous studies mentioned had to do with pnes. It is tempting to ask whether these type seizures may effect frequency of other epileptic seizures one has but more studies should be done. Although these are not actual epileptic seizures, it is practical to see how having a normal epileptic seizure could lead to a change in personality and overall attitude as well if one allows it to do so.

Overall, although any medical condition could change the individuals’ outlook on life or who they are as a person, no one should let a condition that they have be a part in determining who they are. Yes it may be part of you that you can do nothing about to change, but even so, you should try to look at it positively, and allow it to be used for the greater good regardless of how you may feel on the inside.

References

1. Psychological long term outcome in patients with psychogenic non epileptic seizures. Epilepsia, 2019 Apr 60 (4) 669-678

2. Personality traits in psychogenic non epileptic seizures (PNES) and psychogenic movement disorders (PMD): Neuroticism and Perfectionism. J Psychosom Res 2017 Jun; 97 23-29

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