How Stress Effects Seizures

There are many types of seizures that an individual can have. This ranges anywhere from a very simple focal seizure where it is a very blank stare, to a total seizure where they can not move. Most of the time the triggers behind these seizures are thought to only be due to the chemical imbalance seen and are effectively treated with medications. Although this is true, there are other triggers for seizures as well. Here we will cover how  stress effects seizures.

There have been many studies conducted on the effects of stress on both the frequency and intensity of seizures that an individual may experience (3). This stress may come in different forms or be triggered in different places (5). Triggers include physical, mental, as well as emotional stresses. It is the biological effects that these stresses have on the body that trigger seizures happening. One of these indicators is an individuals’ level of cortisol which is associated with stress (1).

One interesting concept is the factor of individuality and stress being a trigger of seizures. This is because two different people may react in different ways to the same exact stressor that is faced. In one study looked at, patients with left temporal lobe epilepsy were matched on perceived stress levels. Results from this indicated that an increase in perceived stress is associated with the frequency of seizures in those with left temporal lobe epilepsy. (2) This says that only seeing possible stress as opposed to the stress itself can even effect this, which is somewhat disturbing.

One other thing that should be taken into consideration when looking at the effects of stress on the frequency or intensity of seizures is the age of the individual. It would be logical to think that the average adult individual would be able to handle specific situations better than those at a younger age, meaning there may be less stresses they may have to be concerned about. Although this seems like it may be true, this is not always the case. It is also interesting to consider the effects on the different aspects of life that seizures can have an effect on. This includes mental, social, economical, as well as other aspects.

In one study, a group of 15 teenage children were used to find the connection between the severity of epilepsy and its effect on autonomy and social development are looked at. As expected, seizures disrupted every day functions to the individuals’ which was a challenge concerning their perception on their level of ability. The seizures also brought with it social exclusion which was effected by environmental and social factors. Although this is the case, the fact that the individuals’ support from family and friends was used as a protective factor. This showed that you must consider both barriers to doing and to being in order to understand an individuals’ inclusion or exclusion that may be seen. (4) You may not be able to know what these barriers are though unless you speak with the individual. Concerning both of these factors, I believe that being would come first, followed closely by doing. When you know the barrier of being, you can then go through this. The result is an increase in self-esteem which leads to a greater chance of going through the barrier of doing and completing the task involved.

The way in which the individual may handle a situation can also be a factor in controling stressors which may be triggers to seizures.  In one study, psychogenic non epileptic seizures, otherwise known at PNES were looked at among men and women. The focus was to find any differences concerning how the issue was handled. For women, many factors included an increase in sexual trauma, which led to the effect of dissociation. Concerning the way in which men dealt with things, an increase in avoidance was seen as well as an increase in the level of depression that was seen. (6) This seems to point to men avoiding any discussion as a form of stress coping. This in turn due to leaving thin inside so to speak, could lead to the depression that was seen.

For any situation that an individual may have faced, it is all in how you deal with it that determines the overall results. Although it may be a challenge at times, talking about something is the best and most effective thing to do in order to release any type of stress that a situation may have put on you. This over time will lead to positive results concerning how you deal with specific situations.

If you know what specific stresses are that may trigger seizures you may have, you can then knowing what they are do your best at avoiding them in order to decrease the chances of them occurring.

Also, many times the effects of seizures on an individual has a very negative effect one the level of ones’ level of self-esteem or self efficacy. This could occur due to a number of different reasons. The decrease in self esteem could also effect other things as well including things such as employment as an example. An individual may have such low self-esteem that even though they may be over qualified for a position, it may prevent a job opportunity from occurring. There are different ways in which this can be dealt with and the individual helped to concern increasing their self-esteem and self efficacy levels. The main thing concerning this is being able to focus on the individuals” specific wants and needs (7)

This would indicate that you couldn’t use one specific thing, but would have to focus on the individual and their specific needs. Being able to have these needs met, or even discussing goals that they may have and steps to take in order to achieve them would help with increasing the individuals” level of self-esteem. The increase in self-esteem may then allow specific external stresses to have less of an effect on this, and other factors, which in turn would increase ones’ control over the seizures that they had.

I would advise anyone that has experienced seizures or they are currently effecting you, to do an assessment of life in general, and try to indicate if there may be specific stresses that could affect the amount of seizures you are having. Although the doctor may say here, take a pill, this isn’t always the answer since many times stress can be the main factor concerning a trigger. This, and because you the individual only really know what the triggers are or may be, your doctor should be listening to you concerning any forms of treatments that you believe will work for your specific situation.

References

1.Cortisol levels and seizures in adults with epilepsy: Systematic review.

2. Neural response to stress and perceived stress differ in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy.

3. Hyperthermia seizure followed by repetitive stress are associated with age dependent changes in specific aspects of mouse stress system.

4. Living well with epilepsy in adolence- A qualatative study of young peoples experiences in singapore. Peer socilization, autonomy & self-esteem. Child care help development. 2019, Mar 45(2)

5.Facilitation of kindling epileptogenesis by chronic stress may be mediated by intestinal microbiome. Epilepsia open 2018, Apr 9 3 (2)290-294

6. Are there gender differences in those diagnosed with PNES. Epilepsy behavior, 2018 Jan 78 161-165

7. How can we enhance the sence of self efficacy in epilepsy individuals’ responses from two qualatative case reports. Complement Med Res 2017 24(4) 215-224

4 Replies to “How Stress Effects Seizures”

  1. I have had temporal lobe epilepsy since April, 1964. The use of a generic medication has resulted in Sleep Seizures which I never previously had-and their unfortunate persistence even after the use of Brand Name medication was resumed; in addition the generic medicine has permanently destroyed my previously established seizure-control. From June, 2016 to February, 2019 my seizures were much less frequent. Then suddenly in February, 2018 after learning that my husband would be a likely candidate for knee replacement surgery-the frequency and severity of my seizures increased dramatically. Does this sound common? Linda-levcic@verizon.net

    1. Hi Linda,

      I’m sorry it took a while to respond. I know it has to be extremly tough what you’re going through. The frequency of the ones I have seemed to increase after certain events occured. Things like depression, anxiety, or any other type stressor can be a trigger for a seizure. Many times a seizure may be non epileptic, what is refered to psychogenic non epileptic seizure. If you are aware of what the trigger may be, I may suggest using something like meditation or journaling to clear your thoughts. I’m no Dr, but those are just some ideas. I hope this helps.

  2. That’s a very interesting information. I am able to relate to many of these type of things. I know that there are also what is known as pnes or psychogenic non epileptic seizures. Many times these may be happening and it just not be known. I guess the only way to diagnose them would be to do some type of psychological test on the individual to see what may trigger the seizure. I totally agree with this though.

    1. Although most neurologist do not consider this a possibility, but as a patient if you think this may be the issue, I would insist that some type of test be done.

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