Seizures Caused By Anxiety

Anyone who has epilepsy or seizures knows how it can play an affect your mood and state of mind. Many times one may face anxiety, depression, or other psychological conditions due to epilepsy.

It has even been shown that these symptoms have more of a negative affect on the individuals’ quality of life than the seizures themselves. Can seizures be caused by anxiety ? Epilepsy or seizures can affect ones’ mental state, mood and overall quality of life.

Here we look at how seizures caused by anxiety is real, along with types of therapy and other treatment that can be used.

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Types of anxiety

A number of studies have been performed looking at the pattern of anxiety seen in individuals that have epilepsy. There are three stages of anxiety that are considered. This includes preictal, interictal, and postictal.

This is before, during, and after a seizure occurs respectively. Having anxiety prior to a seizure occurring could be a trigger, meaning its preictal, while post interictal anxiety is a by product of having the seizure.

Different types of anxieties can occur independent of the seizure as well including: anticipatory anxiety of having a seizure, seizure phobia, epileptic social phobia, and even epileptic panic disorder (1). 

In order to decrease the frequency of seizures occurring that may arise from anxiety certain self-help therapies could be used to assist in helping the individual stay calm. The type of therapy used should depend on the individual and their specific triggers.

Are Seizures Caused By Anxiety ?

Many times the seizure itself can also be triggered from an overload of anxiety. A seizure which is triggered from anxiety could be either an epileptic seizure, or what is considered a non epileptic seizure or event.

Certain forms of anxiety can occur in an epileptic patient. This includes: social anxiety disorder which would be having a fear of increased stigmatization or others’ perception after having a seizure, panic disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder just to name some.

This can affect one’s mental health and overall quality of life. This could be why educating patients concerning these factors could be effective in increasing one’s overall mental health (2). An improvement in mental health could then possibly lead to a decrease in seizures if anxiety is in fact the individuals’ trigger.

Can seizures cause anxiety ?

Having a seizure can be a very traumatic experience to the individual whether they are a regular occurrence, or they don’t happen that often.

All seizures have the same physiological affect on an individual, but for many if not most individuals, can and many times does lead to anxiety or other psychological conditions. This includes an increase in anxiety, depression, and even a decrease in the overall value in quality of life.

Many individuals with seizures may feel nervous or on edge while in public having a fear of a possible seizure occurring. This could be a sign of social anxiety disorder which could have been caused by having seizures previously in public.

It has been shown that up to 40 % of patients with epilepsy have what is considered co morbid anxiety. This can affect overall quality of life and even mortality. A bidirectional association between anxiety and epilepsy may indicate a common pathophysiology concerning their relationship as well. (4) 

This shows the importance of both the neurological and psychological medical communities working together in order to better understand this relationship.


There are numerous types of therapies that may be used in order to help decrease anxiety or depression in individuals where these may be triggers of the seizures occurring.

An individualized program for someone with epilepsy that is dealing with anxiety is probably the best option. Some forms of self therapy may include meditation, deep breathing, or other relaxation techniques.

These all fall into what is known as cognitive behavioral therapy. One study performed looked at epileptic patients  concerning strategies used to control seizures in those with temporal lobe epilepsy, along with healthy individuals. This looked at specifically the interictal anxiety that individuals had while having a seizure.

Results showed epilepsy patients to have a 35% higher level of anxiety when compared to the general population. The individuals that had temporal lobe epilepsy along with interictal anxiety had a lower quality of life when compared to those with temporal lobe epilepsy but no interictal anxiety.

Although therapies were used by those with interictal anxiety, no differences were seen concerning seizure control (5) This doesn’t necessarily mean that the use of therapies have no affect, but the individual should know the triggers so they have a specific type of therapy to use for any anxiety.

Environmental effects on seizures

The environment that one surrounds their self with effects one’s’ mood and outlook. The environment surrounding you can affect your mindset and level of tension depending on the situation.

Any excessive stress such as this could lead to a seizure due to an increase in anxiety. It has been shown that the environment plays an important role in frequency of seizures occurring.

In one study, the association between temporal lobe epilepsy, depression and anxiety was looked at. Since the temporal lobe of the brain has to do with controlling emotions, this makes sense to use this form of epilepsy. The study took place over a six-week period where rodents had the condition of status eplepticus.

This is where seizures occur back-to-back and do not stop. They were housed in either a normal cage, or an enriched environment cage. This was for fourteen days. Chemical and cellular aspects of the hippo campus of the brain were looked at to see any possible changes.

Results showed the enriched environment significantly decreased seizure frequency and duration. This suggests that certain therapeutic strategies could be used to alleviate seizures and any psychiatric aspects such as anxiety or depression that is associated with temporal lobe epilepsy. (3)

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Effectively treating seizures

Because of there being different types of seizures, either epileptic or non epileptic, it is hard to know what treatment to use if you are unaware of the specific type of seizure one is having.

Because having a seizure can cause anxiety or certain phobias, this suggests a direct relationship in some way. Anxiety due to having a seizure or other factors can also be a trigger for a seizure, so specific forms of therapy or treatment may be needed for the individual in order to decrease the frequency of the seizures.

Certain therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy has shown to be effective in assisting with non epileptic seizures which are due to anxiety or depression.

If you’re a patient that is epileptic and think certain stresses such as anxiety or depression may be triggering either epileptic or non epileptic seizures, or if you think you may be having only non epileptic seizures, this and other forms of therapy may help and should be discussed with your doctor.

Seizures caused by anxiety, as well as having anxiety resulting from seizures occurring are both possibilities. This can lead to a chronic condition if triggers leading to anxiety are not found and treatments be used.

Therapies mention, and even the use of marijuana may be possible since marijuana has been shown to have positive effects on decreasing anxiety levels.

The use of therapies on anxiety which may trigger seizures is promising and should be tried, but more research should be done in order to get a full benefit from using this type of treatment.