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.
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.
1 in 5 people in the UK have some form of depression at some point in their lives.
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’ 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 use our short form (pdf 826 KB) to talk to your doctor or nurse about how you feel.
Information produced: August 2017
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’.
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.
For some people, their epilepsy and mood problems are not connected, they just happen to have both conditions. However, potential links are to do with how epilepsy affects your life as well as with your brain, your genes and your family history.