People with epilepsy overcome multiple challenges every day, but depression is one challenge no one should try to cope with alone. The National Institute of Mental Health estimated that 7.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced at least one episode of major depression in 2017.
People with epilepsy report depression at a much higher rate than the general population. According to a study published by the Indiana University School of Medicine, 30-35% of people with epilepsy will experience depression during their lifetime. Depression is the most common mental health issue to affect those with epilepsy.
The Epilepsy-Depression Connection
Social isolation can affect people with epilepsy and could lead to depression. Some people might feel anxious, angry, or even embarrassed about the possibility of having a seizure in public. These negative feelings may lead to fewer personal interactions and giving up on activities that bring joy. There are many ways to address epilepsy stigma with friends and co-workers. In most cases, education is the key. However, many reasons for the high incidences of depression among those living with epilepsy are medical or biological, and you should discuss them with your physician.
Hormone levels, side effects from medications, and experiencing certain types of seizures may increase the possibility of mood disorders. Brain chemistry is the root cause of depression for many people. It shouldn’t be surprising that people living with a neurological disorder are at higher risk of depression.
Symptoms and Risks of Untreated Depression
Depression can affect your health on several levels. Suicide is a frequent and valid concern for those living with depression, but other severe issues that affect health and wellness can arise:
- Weight gain
- Panic disorder
- Substance abuse
- Relationship conflicts
- Loss of job or failure in school
You should contact your physician if you or a loved one is experiencing any of the following signs of depression:
- Unprovoked anger
- Anxiety and agitation
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
- Unexplained loss or increase in appetite
- Loss of interest in favorite activities and hobbies
- Unexplained pain, such as headaches or back pain
- Trouble concentrating or other cognitive problems
- Feelings of deep sadness, worthlessness, guilt or hopelessness
- Feeling tired, out of energy or under the weather for no known reason
Improving Your Mood
It's normal to feel down now and then, whether you're living with epilepsy or not. Occasional bouts of mild or situational depression are part of everyone's life. If you're having more trouble than usual breaking out of a down cycle, there are things you can do to feel better. Check out the following simple suggestions to boost your mood:
Spend time with friends and relatives who “get it.”
Join a support group for people living with epilepsy or go out to lunch with a friend. Talking about your feelings with others who can understand your struggles can be helpful, but not every social interaction needs to become a therapy session. Join friends for a walk in the park or a night out. Just being with people who love and appreciate you as a whole person can lift the spirits—no “health talk” required.
Manage your stress.
Unmanaged stress is a significant factor in mental, emotional, and physical wellness. Feeling stressed out can also lead to an increase in seizures, which, in turn, enhances the stress cycle. Regular exercise, meditation, getting a good night’s sleep, and staying organized can all help tame the stress monster. If you're feeling pressure because there's too much on your plate, try breaking down large tasks into smaller, more manageable bites. Be realistic about your goals, and allow yourself to feel proud of little accomplishments.
Fresh air and sunshine are stronger medicine than you might think. The scents and sounds of nature—even if getting outdoors is walking two city-blocks to the grocery store—can revive a sour mood. Try for a 20-minute brisk walk to get the heart pumping, and let the endorphins flowing.
Start a new hobby or revisit an old one.
Hobbies provide opportunities to take the mind off our troubles, create something beautiful, or gather with friends. From Bunko to bowling, from crochet to croquet, spending time focused on a hobby is a great way to improve your mood and keep your mind sharp.
Manage your health.
It’s hard to be in a good mood when you don’t feel well. As a person living with epilepsy, you have an even greater need to take care of your health daily. Taking medications as they are prescribed, eating right, getting regular exercise, and adequate sleep are all tools you can use to stay healthy. Using an accurate personal alerting system like SeizureLink is another tool that can help you manage your health. Learn more about the SeizureLink System™ by visiting our website.