Epilepsy Talk

Epilepsy, Anxiety and Depression | November 9, 2009


One study stated that 80% of the patients with epilepsy were also diagnosed as having a depressive disorder. Upwards of 60% of these individuals had a history of significant episodes of depression.  And 10-32% experience symptoms of anxiety. Not too reassuring, is it?

And for those whose epilepsy cannot be controlled by meds, the likelihood of depression and anxiety are even greater.

In fact, many of the medications used to treat seizure disorders can trigger depression.  Dilantin, Phenobarbatol, Celonton and Tegretol are all notorious for this side effect.

However, research shows that depression and anxiety can  improve significantly after epilepsy surgery.

According to the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, the rate of depression and anxiety disorders decreased by more than 50 percent up to two years after surgery. People who no longer experienced seizures after surgery were even more likely to be free of depression and anxiety.

The majority of the patients in this study had surgery on the temporal lobe of their brain. The study volunteers were evaluated before surgery, and at three months, one year and two years after their surgery.

Trigger management

Careful monitoring of your seizures can help you figure out possible triggers, how they affect your behavior, and what happens after an episode.  With time, you can target your plans to lessen or prevent triggers and figure out what the culprits are: lack of sleep, foods, stress, work, social situations, isolation, or some simple thing in your  everyday life.

Here are some suggestions that might help you:

Consider counseling… support groups…tracking your seizures and their triggers daily in a diary…time-out when you’re feeling overwhelmed… relaxation  exercises, deep breathing or yoga…

But most importantly, tell your doctor and family how you feel. Support can often go a long way towards helping your anxiety and depression.

Another article of interest:

Depression’s Chemical Imbalance Explained


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  1. Just so you know Phylis,

    I have 2 ‘notify me…’ messages under this comment box. Was only 1 under the last message box I posted.

    Now, down to your topic. VERY WELL SAID! Now, here is some of my family history to back it all up. 🙂 I have had mild depression, forever. But, didn’t realize it till peri-meno started.
    But, I would say it dates back much further. I have a few pics in my head. Moments in time that are forever engraved. I really can’t think of any time when I was ‘Happy’. I have no recall of growing up or playing w/ my brothers & sisters. My flashbacks always seem to be of sad &/or alone moments. I can understand Okinawa. It was a dreary kinda place. But, Imagine being sad in Hawaii. 😦 Or Germany. I have no recall of traveling thru the States. But, we did. When we settled in Texas (age 16)I can picture me sad & alone walking the circle at a trailer park w/ our dog. Again at the HS prom. Standing alone & very sad. The ONLY ‘happy’ moment I can recall was w/ my Grandparents when we went to visit. A lot of those ‘memories’ are gone too. Just that one brief flash of Grandma in the Kitchen making my fav pancakes & Grandpa in front of the TV watching Wrestling matches. It’s the only memory I have of ALL the family together. 😦 Even then it’s more a ‘feeling’ then a memory. Make sense?

    I have never reported this to my DRS. I have managed to ‘adjust’ & ‘cope’ on my own. I now know EP is the root. I know/understand my meds contribute. Thanks to info from my Sis & her ‘naturalist MD’ I have increased my Vitamin D3 To 2000IU, May increase it again soon. I know I can go up to 5000IU. (my MD says HUHUH Mite overdose.)
    DRS! Always a difference in opinion. 😦

    Sister has (in my mind) always been depressed. But, when she noticed suicidal thoughts everyday, a few yrs ago, she FINALLY sought help from her MD. My daughter has ALL the Angst attacks. 😦 Depression is mild, like mine, most times.

    Love Candi


    Comment by Candi — November 9, 2009 @ 7:37 PM

    • I gotta say this Candi, I suffered clinical depression all my life. The question is: which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did I get depression from all those electrical shorts from seizures, or was I dpressed because of having epilepsy?

      I’ve had several suicide attempts and see the shrink every week. I call him the Prince, because he is a Prince among men.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 9, 2009 @ 8:24 PM

  2. I do believe it is the chemical imbalances we experience due to the misfiring neurons in our brains. I agree,the news of EP can be depressive, in & of itself. But, I believe I was depressed B4 dx. So, I continue to blame the szs…….:) My other ‘depressive experiences’ just added fuel to the fire. I have had brief thoughts over the yrs, but, have never followed thru. On the other hand BOTH my nieces & my daughter have attempted it. My daughter tried it w/ MY Pheno’s 😦 I ain’t sure if Sis ever did, but,those thoughts SCARED her enough to finally tell her DR.

    Have YOU considered adding Vitamin D-3 to your med regimen? Or having your hormone levels checked?

    Glad you got a good shrink. 🙂 I should introduce you to my friend, Bonnie, who has a psych degree. Another one who left cuz of Bruce. 😦 She is an amazing lady. Fighting EP & Cancer. 😦

    Love Candi


    Comment by Candi — November 12, 2009 @ 12:51 AM

  3. First question: What did Bruce do to make Bonnie leave?

    Second question: were you an “army brat?” Because I went to 12 schools in 12 years and I felt pretty depressed and isolated without good old-time friends. It’s pretty lonely and depressing. Seizures or not, we need friends who care…


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 12, 2009 @ 7:26 AM

  4. Hi Phylis and Candi,

    Candi, did Bruce cause you more depression?

    My depression was mild before I believe it was caused by my medicines.

    When had my first status seizures. My depression got a whole lot worse. Being diagnosed 2 years ago, having Stevens-Johnson Syndrome did not help. I am still losing my skin. I am getting more depressed.

    I probabaly need to see a psychiatrist. I am on so many medicines that the doctor would not be able to give me any more medicine. I am on 7 medicines. 5 for my epilepsy. Actually 8, if I count my Advair.

    I am pretty much leading a sedentary life. I have to force myself to exercize. Exercise is important since I have diabetes. It keeps me in shape and lowers my blood glucose level. Right now, I am real depressed.



    Comment by Ruth Brown — November 17, 2009 @ 5:01 AM

  5. I forgot to ask for “comments via e-mail.” I will do that now.


    Comment by Ruth Brown — November 17, 2009 @ 5:07 AM

  6. Ah Bruce. What a guy. He sent me a “nasty gram” the other day. I can see why Bonnie quit. I may soon be following her example.

    Ruth, I definitely think a psychiatrist would help. I know it does wonders for me. However, it’s often tricky finding the right one. Is there anyone you could ask for references? Friends, relatives, other docs?

    As for walking, it gets that seratonin flowing, which is a good thing. The first thing my shrink asks me every Monday is: “Did you walk this week?” 😉


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 17, 2009 @ 7:25 AM

  7. Hi Phylis, thank you for the encouragement. I live in a small county. My doctor would refer me to a psychiatrist if I asked. I have not told her about my depression. I feel that I am seeing to many doctors. Making the trip to see them is depressing, as well. I cannot drive. Depending on my husbsnd and son is depressing, too. I would like to go places on my own.

    My seizures are pretty much under control. I bslieve it is the medicines I am on that is causing it. My newest medicines are Keppra and mysoline.

    It did not help when someone at CWE told me I needed to join Epilepsy and Mental Illness. I do not mind being there, but that picture is terrible. It is like the past centuries when a mentally ill person had to hide and cover their head. Most mentally ill people work and are social. I told Bernard about it. I have asked him to change it to one of the album pictures that someone has. There are a lot of artists there.

    You belong to Epilepsy and Mental Illness. You know what I mean. I am trying to get the ones who belong to it to get active in the program. I would like you to comment on some of my topics, Phylis. They are putting their topics in the forum. That is why I know it is that picture.

    I belong there because I am so depressed. Please read my topics Phylis. It will give you insight into my problems.


    Comment by Ruth Brown — November 18, 2009 @ 7:02 AM

  8. So Ruth, which is worse, hiding your head because you have “mental illness” or because you’re one of those “weirdo” people with epilepsy? Sounds like a lose-lose all the way. According to popular opinion, they would say we were doomed!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 18, 2009 @ 7:21 AM

  9. Hi Phylis, you have seen that picture. It is not me or any in the group that feel like they have to hide their heads.

    I do not consider me or any peoople with mental illness a “weirdo.” It is that picture that says we are doomed. That is why everyone with a mental illness puts their topics in the forum.


    Comment by Ruth Brown — November 18, 2009 @ 7:53 AM

  10. Hi, I have gotten more active in the Epilepsy and Mental Illness. I have been changing things, especially the picture. You would be surprised how many people have told me that the picture made them more depressed. everyone likes the new picture.

    I feel like I can go to Epilepsy and Mental Illness now. I am still depressed.

    I am wondering if it has anything to do with my latest seizures. They are increasing again. I had a nocturnal seizure a week ago. I felt like I fractured my brain. Today, I woke up bleeding in my right side of my face. I know it was seizures.

    Is depression causing these seizures?


    Comment by Ruth Brown — November 23, 2009 @ 6:18 AM

    • I don’t honestly know whether it’s depression or just those damn neurons playing basketball with your brain… Any changes with your meds?


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 23, 2009 @ 6:49 AM

  11. It is probably the neurons. There have been no changes in my medicines. My neurologist says that there is something wrong with my carotoid artery. My regular doctor was suppose to tell me about it. She always says that my tests come out normal.

    I do not believe her. I believe that there is something else going on with me.


    Comment by Ruth Brown — November 23, 2009 @ 6:56 AM

  12. Which cartoid artery?

    According to WebMD: The carotid arteries are two large blood vessels that supply oxygenated blood to the large, front part of the brain. This is where thinking, speech, personality, and sensory and motor functions reside. You can feel your pulse in the carotid arteries on each side of your neck, right below the angle of the jaw line.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 23, 2009 @ 7:07 AM

  13. Hi Phylis, they did an ultrasound on both sides. It was good on one the left side. On the right side there was no sound at all.


    Comment by Ruth Brown — November 23, 2009 @ 7:29 AM

  14. I don’t know what that means, but it doesn’t sound good…


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 23, 2009 @ 10:09 AM

  15. I will get to the doctor about that. I have had more anxiety. I had seizures, while I was taking a nap. I hit against the bedboard, I think. That is the only way that I can figure I had such pain in my skull. I felt like I had a fracture.

    The next day, the same thing happened. This time I did not have my brain in pain. Blood was coming from somewhere.

    Today I saw my doctor about it. She did all of the tests. She found blood in my urine, a pick color in my eye. She is sending that to a pathologist because she does not know what it is.I also had a CTScan tonight. No fractures, good news.

    My neurologist upped my Keppra by 3. Thank goodness, I got it done in one day.

    My cartoid artery is the unknown. I wonder if that caused all of this. I did not have time to be depressed today.


    Comment by Ruth Brown — November 24, 2009 @ 3:24 PM

  16. Hi Phylis, something happened to me today that put me in depression big time. I put a thread in CWE. Someone put a report on it. I did not break any rules.

    I was out of my depression. I hardly ever put in a thread. I do not think I will again. I just am a problem.


    Comment by Ruth Brown — November 30, 2009 @ 8:32 AM

  17. The thread is in CWE. A member of CWE put in a report and said it was “inapproiate.” I did not break any rules. Here is the address:


    I am not making any more posts on my thread. Tiger Woods is my favorite athlete. I love golf.



    Comment by Ruth Brown — December 1, 2009 @ 11:16 AM

  18. I love golf. I hope Tiger Woods comes back to play golf. I was kindly asked to stop keeping the thread going.

    I was not in a depression then, but I am now. I got caught up in a topic at The Creative Writing Page. I edited some of my posts there today. I got caught up in something that was opposite to my beliefs. I am in a depression again. I think that has caused it. It is called Trading in the Diamonds. I asked Rae1889 what we were into She told me it was a “mystical detivive” story. If I had known that I would never had signed on as a writer. I feel bad about it. Rae told me by PM that I was ruining the story by trying to make it normal. I am happy about that, being accused of being normal.

    I am feeling better now.


    Comment by Ruth Brown — December 21, 2009 @ 5:08 AM

  19. I see, the link was about Tiger Woods. I believe that was deleted or renamed. I was corrected on that one, because they said, “He did not have epilepsy. It may have been put in the lounge. That room is for anything not related to epilepsy Ruth


    Comment by Ruth Brown — December 21, 2009 @ 5:33 AM

  20. Hi Phylis, here I am again. I feel comfortable being here. Sunday, I felt great. I did housework, went to my meeting and was awake all day. It was great.

    Monday, I woke up to a migraine. I took my med for it. It did not go away. I slept all day and all night. My husband woke me up for lunch, dinner and meds. He is great!! He understands.

    I feel better today. I am in a depression again. Any ideas. Could it because of Monday?

    By the way, Tiger Woods is coming back to golf this year.


    Comment by Ruth Brown — January 26, 2010 @ 11:11 PM

  21. Hi Phylis, I noticed Notify me of new posts via e-mail. That would be great. You have really expanded. I am glad. I want to know of new topics.


    Comment by Ruth Brown — January 26, 2010 @ 11:14 PM

    • Gee Ruth,

      I wish you could have 2 good days in a row! Although Monday isn’t my favorite day either.

      But Sundays are worse because every Sunday I used to freak out between 2:00 and 4:30 because that was when I had to beg my father for child support.

      Instead of just mailing it, he would have me sit there and beg for it. Not too nice.

      So Sundays are prime time for my depression. Although now that I’ve figured out why (just recently, it came to me in a flash) I can do something constructive about it and turn lemons into lemonade!


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 27, 2010 @ 12:07 AM

  22. Hi Phylis,

    That was horrible, begging your father for what was yours.

    I kept having to beg to have my family accept me after my father died. I was immediately disowned after he died. He was the only one keeping me in the family.

    Hubby started joking about how our printer’s do not work. I started laughing, plus I put on my sunglasses. I feel better now. I will just ask hubby to come up with some jokes when I am down.


    Comment by Ruth Brown — January 27, 2010 @ 2:46 AM

  23. Sounds like you’ve got yourself a good man. Anyone who can make you smile and laugh is worth their weight in gold!!!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 27, 2010 @ 5:42 AM

  24. Hi Phylis,

    I not only have a good man, I have a good son.

    When I am sick or well, he does housework. He cooks everynight. In fact, one night I wanted to cook and he said, “NO.”


    Comment by Ruth Brown — January 27, 2010 @ 11:45 AM

  25. TWO jewels. Twice blessed. Good for you Ruth!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 27, 2010 @ 8:56 PM

  26. Ketamine Relieves Depression By Restoring Brain Connections

    Scientists say they have figured out how an experimental drug called ketamine is able to relieve major depression in hours instead of weeks.

    Researchers from Yale and the National Institute of Mental Health say ketamine seems to cause a burst of new connections to form between nerve cells in parts of the brain involved in emotion and mood.

    The discovery, described in Science, should speed development of the first truly new depression drugs since the 1970s, the researchers say…

    For more information, go to: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/10/04/162299564/ketamine-relieves-depression-by-restoring-brain-connections?ft=1&f=100


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 5, 2012 @ 12:51 PM

  27. STRESS #1 HERE. Seizure free over 20+yrs till Employer gets rid of me-worked as FULLY LICENSED/CERTIFIED Auto Mechanic w/all licenses&certifications-EVEN 2YR COLLEGE DEGREE in AUTO! Employer of 15+yrs decides to hire new mechanic-18yr old kid still in HIGH SCHOOL-then its bye bye for me,even after being w/him 15+yrs! Employer tries to prevent me from collect UNEMPLOYMENT but i got him;former co-worker stick up for me and proved how i lost job/CAREER; EMPLOYER PUT OUT of BUSINESS for what he did to me. Collected UNEMPLOYMENT. Due to all stress had 1st seizure in long time-DRIVING-of all places for 1 to happen. Now SEIZURE FREE but STILL WAIT for DRIVE LICENSE-Dr. DOESNT WANT TO SIGN PAPERWOK for RETURN of LICENSE!!


    Comment by lckyedd — July 15, 2013 @ 8:12 AM

  28. As for your boss, it sounds like Karma.

    As for you, are you eligibe to get your licence back now?

    If so, I would call the office manager (politely, non confrontationally) and say you’d like to come THERE to pick up your driver’s permission papers and could they please have them ready by (day, time).

    Make it sound like they’re helping you out, even if you’re steamed.

    Offices are so deluged by paperwork that things (like YOU) fall inbetween the cracks.

    It’s not personal, but it would be good if you could get them and the paperwork moving.

    “If you don’t ask, you won’t get!” 😉


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 15, 2013 @ 8:57 AM

  29. If you won,t fight for what you got, then no one can help you.


    Comment by Michele Metzger — June 18, 2014 @ 7:05 PM

  30. You go Girl!

    (Now here’s a lady of my own heart…)


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 18, 2014 @ 8:40 PM

  31. I have anxiety and depression everyday,but I don,t let that stop me from going to work ,or doing anything.After I had that seizure at work, that didn,t stop me from going to work the next to days even when I was still a little weak. never give up.


    Comment by michele metzger — March 8, 2016 @ 11:12 PM

  32. Hats off to you Michele!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 9, 2016 @ 8:27 AM

  33. Phyllis,
    Which antidepressants are safe for a person with epilepsy? Which ones are absolutely NOT safe? Or must this be determined by trial and error? How to find a psychiatrist who is knowledgeable about epilepsy?


    Comment by Martha — December 1, 2017 @ 3:38 PM

    • OMG Martha, you’re asking questions impossible to answer. I wish I was a doctor so I could REALLY help.

      I can tell you, I’ve been on Effexor for 100 years and it keeps me stable. But it’s an anti-anxiety med.

      I found my psychiatrist (who is wonderful), through a friend.

      But I wanted multiple options to interview, so I asked my PCP, the pharmacist (yes, the pharmacist!)and other friends.

      I narrowed down my list, and then I began to go for “consults”. And finally I made my choice.

      My psychiatrist works together with my neurologist, when necessary. I am blessed and I wish the same for you.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 2, 2017 @ 8:30 AM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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