Tag Archive | risk factors

Epilepsy and Depression

This blog will be a little different. You see I’ll be discussing depression. Much of this blog comes from an informational article found on the Epilepsy Foundation website. This will describe a few people (me included) rolled into one person who I will call Abby.

Abby has had epilepsy for many years and is on 2 medications to control her seizures. Like all medications there are side effects, one that ALL anti-seizure medications seem to share is depression. And if that’s not enough, just having epilepsy alone can be a cause for depression. You see, the seizures Abby has may come from an emotion center of the brain. According to the article found on the Epilepsy Foundation website, people with epilepsy may be more likely than other people to experience emotional changes.

How often seizures happen also plays a role in depression. People who have seizures frequently may be more likely to feel depressed than people who have well-controlled seizures. Even though Abby’s seizures are (currently) controlled, she still suffers from bouts of depression. As anyone with epilepsy can attest, after your first seizure (even if you try to deny it’s now a real part of your life) you worry to varying degrees “will I have another seizure?” “when will it happen?” These thoughts alone can be a cause of depression.

Lifestyle risk factors are also important in the development of depression in people with epilepsy. In one study, four factors were linked to depression: poor adjustment to seizures, increases in stressful life events, financial stress and being a woman.

In addition, people who feel “controlled” by their epilepsy and feel that it dominates their lives may be more susceptible to mood disorders.

People with Epilepsy and Depression

The results of studies to find out how many people with epilepsy have a mood disorder such as depression vary widely, ranging anywhere from 11 percent to 60 percent. A lot depends on how depression is defined and the groups of people being studied—for example, hospitalized patients or those in outpatient clinics.

Research also shows that people with epilepsy who are depressed often are not diagnosed. About 50 percent of the time they are never treated for the problem. In Abby’s case, it’s because she feels that the feelings will go away, and she’s embarrassed to feel this way in the first place. Abby never had issues before. She was great at handling stress, doing her job, juggling everything thrown her way, why should she admit to yet another fault/flaw in her make up (you see, that’s how she views her epilepsy – a flaw in her biological make up).

Depression: A Checklist

So now Abby has to ask herself, am I suffering from depression? Here are the questions she should be asking.

  • Do I have long bouts of sadness? Do I cry for no reason?
  • Have I lost my interest or joy in life?
  • Have I had changes in eating habits resulting in major loss or gain in weight?
  • Have I had a change in my sleeping habits resulting in difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much?
  • Am I irritable, anxious?
  • Do I have difficulty getting things started?
  • Do I have a lack of energy? Am I always tired?
  • Do I have low self-worth, or a loss of hope? Do I feel inappropriately guilty?
  • Do I have poor concentration? Is it difficult for me to make decisions?
  • Do I have thoughts of death or suicide that won’t go away?

YIKES! Yes, folks, I will be honest with you, I have felt yes is the answer to 9 out of 10 of the above list. Most only last 1-4 days.

Abby answered yes to five or more of these questions and feels this way continuously for 2 or more weeks. According to the article, she may be suffering from a major depressive disorder. Abby had felt for a long time that her family and friends were right – she should just “snap out of it, no reason to be depressed.” There are times when Abby is afraid to say anything because she’s afraid she won’t get the understanding/support she really needs. You see, because of having epilepsy for so long, her support system may be numb to her depression – they’ve seen it for so long. So, many times Abby “fakes” feeling good so that no one will really know what’s going on.

Abby needs to contact her doctor because treatment may be needed.

People who have infrequent or less intense symptoms of depression may also require treatment. Watch your own reactions to the world around you. If you feel that some of the listed symptoms are getting in the way of your enjoyment of life, especially the quality of your relationships with others, then you may be suffering from depression.

Fortunately, there are effective ways of treating depression. It is important to talk to your doctor about how you are feeling and ask about treatments that might help. Just because a side-effect of your medication may be one of the items on the above list, do not discount it. Yes, I know that you may have gone through a lot of medications to get to the point that your seizures are controlled. You may be willing to put up with the feeling that the person you were before the seizures is gone forever. But, is it worth it? It could get tiring putting up a false front because you think you need to recreate the person you once were. Seek help from your doctor, it might be an easy thing to correct.

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