Anxiety and Epilepsy

14th March 2019

Feeling anxious is an emotion that many people will be familiar with, it’s most commonly felt when we find ourselves in a challenging or threatening situation. An evolutionary trait that kicks in our fight or flight reflex and survival instincts. It’s completely normal to feel anxious in these situations, however, should it develop into something you feel constantly and for no clear reason it can be classed as a disorder.

There are common links between anxiety and epilepsy, and in this blog post, we’re going to discuss those links and anxiety in general.

What does anxiety feel like?

Anxiety can present in a number of ways and differ from person to person. There are a variety of things that a person suffering from anxiety may experience, both physical and psychosomatic.

Psychosomatic (of the mind)

  • Constantly feeling worried
  • Lack of concentration
  • Feeling irritable
  • Feeling tired
  • Poor sleep
  • Feelings of depression

Physical (of the body)

  • Heart palpitations (fast or irregular heartbeat)
  • Sweating
  • Dizzy spells
  • Nausea
  • Stomach problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Pale face
  • Numbness in the extremities (fingers, toes and lips)
  • Muscle pain and tension

Sometimes people will experience an intense anxiety attack, also known as a panic attack. A panic attack will most often present as feelings of fear, dread, a fast heartbeat, flushed skin, accelerated breathing and sweating. As anyone who has experienced one will know, it can be a terrifying moment and is not something to be taken lightly, especially if experienced on a frequent basis.

In some cases, panic attacks have been misdiagnosed as epilepsy in the past and vice versa, which is why it’s important to distinguish the difference.

What’s the link between anxiety and epilepsy

There are a few ways that anxiety can begin to occur, especially after a diagnosis of epilepsy has been made. For one, many feel anxious as they do not know when a seizure is going to happen, which can lead to a constant feeling of fear and nervousness. Being unable to live life as they previously had before a diagnosis can also lead to feelings of anxiety.

It’s not just the psychological triggers, anxiety can also be the direct result of a seizure. It may also be a side effect to some epilepsy medications.

Treatment for anxiety

If you have epilepsy and are experiencing anxiety, it’s important that you talk to your doctor or neurologist and express your feelings. The treatment could range from simple relaxation therapies through to the prescription of anti-anxiety medications. As previously mentioned, it may be a side effect of your medication, in which case a change in prescription may be considered.

Some common treatments include:

  • Relaxation
  • Counselling
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
  • Medication (antidepressants, benzodiazepines, beta-blockers)

National Epilepsy Training can help

For more information on the link between anxiety and epilepsy and to get our expert advice, you can contact us on 01706 373075 or email admin@nationalepilepsytraining.co.uk.