Psychology And Seizures

When most people hear the word seizures, you think about it being a medical condition in which one is chemically unbalanced within the brain. Although this is true, in many cases, the true cause of the occurrence of the seizure may be different. Most doctors that you speak with do not like to discuss the subject of psychology and seizures, but many times, the triggers of an individuals seizures may actually be psychological and come from a condition such as depression or anxiety. Here we will cover the relationship between psychological issues and seizures If this is a reason for your seizures occuring, knowing this relationship should help you in finding possible triggers of  those seizures.

Some main issues we will cover include that of anxiety, depression, as well as quality of life and their relationship with having epilepsy and seizures. It has been known of a relationship between anxiety and quality of life having an association with characteristics of epilepsy (1). Although the individual on the outside which see the seizure occurring knows that it is severe, they are not able to view it from the victims point of view. This may bring with it a challenge concerning understanding of one another. This is where one’s ability to talk abut things and have an effective relationship comes in and is very important. There are even many famous individuals which had or have the condition but find it hard to discuss.

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Many individuals are able to forget about having a seizure and continue on with life. Other times though, things may be so intense that you allow it to have a negative effect on your thought process. This in turn can eventually lead to other issues. Many individuals suffering from epilepsy and seizures are able to withstand anything concerning possible physical injuries that may happen. Different injuries that one may suffer could include: burns, head injuries, dental trauma, fractures, as well as penetrating trauma, road injury, as well as drowning, with head trauma and fractures being the most common (2). In one study two groups were observed, one which had previous injuries, while the other did not. After any injuries occurred, according to a quality of life (QOL) survey taken, there was no change in QOL, but only specific precautions were given in order to decrease injuries from occurring (2). This is an example of how having a positive attitude regardless of the situation can only lead to improvements within your situation.

The previous example given regarded the physical aspect of things which is a factor, but looking at the mental and psychological effects of epilepsy and how it is dealt with is also important. One study took two groups, measuring and comparing levels of depression and anxiety symptoms as well as defense mechanisms in response to cognitive stimulation. Psychological questionnaires were given to two groups, 64 which had epilepsy, and the other 64 were controls. Results showed those with epilepsy having greater increase in anxiety and depression symptoms as well as signs of poor emotional regulation. If these symptoms are assessed in those with epilepsy, different therapies could be used to improve the individuals’ QOL (3).
Because both depression and epilepsy have a common neurobiological feature, they should be looked at together if an individual has both of these conditions. Many times if an individual has depression, some antidepressants can even assist with having an anti convulsant effects (4).

It has been known that there is a bidirectional relationship between these two conditions. When you stop and think about these two conditions, it very well may be like a faris wheel or carousel. That is either depression being an instigator of developing epilepsy, or having epilepsy resulting in the development of depression. In this sense, it is just a continuing cycle, with no results concerning progress. One study was observational which looked at anyone from the ages of 18-90. Each individual was free of both depression and epilepsy. The hazard of developing epilepsy after incidental depression and the development of depression after incidental epilepsy were calculated. A total of 10,595,709 individuals were looked at. 2.2 % developed depression, while .9% developed epilepsy. Out of these, a higher percentage for both depression and epilepsy were seen in women. In conclusion, these results suggest depression being associated with an increased hazard for developing epilepsy, and vise versa (5).

If you have an idea that depression may be a factor, it may be a good idea to seek counseling. This will allow you to remember any situation you may have gone through that caused depression or anxiety. When this specific condition is identified, receiving therapy or counseling could lead to seeing a decrease in the frequency of seizures.

In some cases, an individual may have had epilepsy for quite some time, but if this is true concerning the relationship between the two, the frequency and severity of seizures experienced may increase when faced with a situation that results in depression. This is also true from the other direction in that for one which has epilepsy and seizures can allow the condition to lead to a state of depression as well.

In conclusion, although the doctor knows much more about the condition than you the patient does, it may be a good idea for the doctor to listen to you. Most doctors will have you give them the general information concerning the severity and frequency of what you have experienced, but most of the time, the only result will be either trying a new medication, or increasing the current dosage you are using. If you have been able to pinpoint the triggers and knows what they are, you should suggest a specific treatment to your doctor if you think it may help. No one knows you better than yourself and if there are any stresses in life that you see as being possible triggers, these should not be overlooked, and using any therapy available to assist you in this should be considered.


1. Mood, anxiety & percieved quality of life in adults with epilepsy & intelectual disabilities. Acty Neurol Scand, 2019 Jun 139(6) 519-525

2. Impact of seizure related injuries on quality of life. Neurol Sci 2019, Mar, 40(3) 577-583

3. Anxiety & depression symptoms in epilepsy in context of defense mechanisms & electrodermal activity. Pol Merkur lekarski 2018 Sep 45 (267) 107-113

4. Nervenarzt. 2016 Jul;87(7):724-30. doi: 10.1007/s00115-015-0026-

5. Association of depression and treated depression with epilepsy and seizure outcomes: A multicohort analysis. JAMA Neurol 2017 May 74(5) 533-539