Mental health and epilepsy

Feelings about being diagnosed and living with epilepsy will vary from one person to another. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are common in people with epilepsy. In some cases, there may be links between a person’s epilepsy and mental health. Possible links include how epilepsy affects their life, how their brain is affected, and their genetic or family history. There are self-help strategies for your mental health and you can also ask for help.

When anxiety becomes a problem

Anxiety becomes a problem when you feel anxious most of the time and when it affects basic things such as eating, sleeping or being able to leave the house. If you are anxious, you may also feel restless and unable to relax, or have no energy or be easily tired. You may panic in certain situations. You may sleep badly or wake up too early in the morning. Your memory or concentration may become poor. You may feel easily irritated.

Depression

We all feel low and depressed sometimes, without it being a medical problem. Depression becomes a problem when the unhappy feelings don’t go away and it affects our daily life.

Around 16% of adults in the UK have some symptoms of depression.

Sometimes depression is triggered by an upsetting or life-changing event, such as bereavement, unemployment, family problems, debt, an accident or an illness. Some people are more likely to become depressed than others because of a family history of depression. Frequent stress (too much pressure) may make depression more likely.

Links between epilepsy and mood

For some people, their epilepsy and mood problems are not connected but potential links are to do with how epilepsy affects their life.

Mood problems as a side effect of medication

Possible side effects of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDS) include mood changes, irritability, agitation or depression. However, with some people AEDs can improve their mood. The risk of you having a side effect may be lower than you think. If a side effect is listed as common, this means that, at the most, 1 in 10 people will get it and 9 in 10 people will not. The lists of side effects that come with AEDs may make you expect to have side effects, increasing your anxiety or low mood.

'Talking' therapies

'Talking' therapies such as counselling, psychotherapy or group therapy may help reduce anxiety or depression and make life more manageable. Talking in confidence about your feelings about epilepsy may be helpful.

Talking about mood to your doctor

You may like to read our factsheet 'your appointment or review' (pdf 644 KB) about talking to your doctor or nurse about how you feel.
 

Information updated: June 2022

Anxiety

Everyone feels anxious at times. When you are frightened or feel threatened, your heart beats faster, your muscles tense and your body prepares you to ‘fight’ the threat, or to run away from it – ‘flight’.

Depression

We all feel low and depressed sometimes, without it being a medical problem. Depression becomes a problem when the unhappy feelings don’t go away and it affects our daily life: eating, sleeping or being able to get out of bed.

Isolation and loneliness

Many of us experience feelings of isolation or loneliness. Research shows that the risk is higher for those with health conditions, disability, or caring responsibilities. Some people with epilepsy may feel isolated at times, and, for some, this may lead to feelings of loneliness.

Stress

For some people, stress can be a trigger for their seizures and for others just having epilepsy can be stressful. Here we look at the links between stress and epilepsy.