Epilepsy is not a mental illness, but it often coexists with psychiatric and other neurological disorders. In fact, 25-50% of individuals with epilepsy will be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. The most common in adults with epilepsy are mood and anxiety disorders, and the most common among children are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and depression.
Sometimes, a change in anti-seizure medication can alleviate mental health symptoms. For others, the addition of an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, and/or mental health counseling may be beneficial. Resources include:
- People Incorporated has an epilepsy program that helps individuals receive services to support their independence, including connecting them with mental health professionals. [https://www.peopleincorporated.org/]
- Most comprehensive epilepsy centers have psychologists on staff who work with patients experiencing psychological problems.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota (NAMI MN), works with individuals with mental illness, their families, professionals, and the community at large by providing education, support, and advocacy. [https://namimn.org/]
Even if you don’t have a diagnosed mental health disorder, epilepsy can still negatively impact emotional health. While stress can be a trigger for seizures, living with epilepsy and the unpredictability of seizures can also cause stress, resulting in a continuous cycle that’s hard to break.
Strategies like meditation, deep breathing, adequate sleep, exercise, and good nutrition can all help in reducing stress. If you need guidance in de-stressing, apps like Calm and Headspace can help. Both are paid services but offer free trial downloads. You can also find free options on YouTube by searching “free guided meditation.”
Living with epilepsy can feel lonely and isolating. Seeking out support and connection from others on their own epilepsy journey can help reduce these feelings and enhance wellbeing.
- EFMN Connect Groups – Connect Groups help you meet others on a similar journey and share experiences in a safe and supportive environment. [https://www.epilepsyfoundationmn.org/connect-with-others/connect-groups/]
- My Epilepsy Team — An online social network where you build a support team based on the criteria you choose. That could mean people living near you, those who share similar symptoms or treatments, people with shared interests and hobbies, or anyone you feel a connection to. [https://www.myepilepsyteam.com/]