Epilepsy Talk

Some Stress and Anxiety Solutions… | October 9, 2012

Sometimes my hands shake so much, I look like I’m leading a symphony. (Without a baton.) Legs too, I have to sit down.

Maybe you panic before a test, the very fear of having a seizure, social rejection, job anxieties, debt, fear of failure, an anticipated argument, holidays, fear of flying.

There are probably as many kinds of stress and panic attacks as there are those of us who suffer from them.

And behaviors: trembling, sweating, hyperventilating, breathlessness, feeling faint or light-headed, a sense of disorientation, cramping, nausea, your heart pounding like it’s going to explode from your chest, a fear of dying. Or you’re just plain scared.

I could go on forever. And I’m sure you could, too.

It might be because your serotonin level is low, you’re feeling a sense of “fight or flight.”

But anxiety is actually related to epilepsy in more specific ways. It can occur not only as a reaction, but also as a symptom and in some cases, as a side effect of seizure medicines.

In some cases, stress and panic attacks have been misdiagnosed as epilepsy, and epilepsy has even been misdiagnosed as panic attacks!

For example, hyperventilation caused by anxiety can trigger a convulsion, which can further complicate the diagnosis.

A person can have a panic attack which may eventually turn to a seizure, or that seizure may be the result of stress.

The worst part is that neither just “goes away.”

But happily, there are some solutions…

1. Deep breathing. I breath in through my nostrils with pursed lips from the diaphragm. (Note: ribs rise as opposed to tummy.) Then exhale twice as long as inhaling. Ten times in a row is best. Or you can try more if you’re feeling really tense. If you’re having trouble relaxing before you go to bed, try 3-5 times. I try to make it a habit. The beauty of this is that you can do it any time, any where, and as long as you need to, until that nasty panic goes away.

2. Visualization. I think of a particular happy experience (or two) and sort of let it take over my body. Like watching the waves crash. Or eating a lobster roll in Maine.

3. Music. I take 30 minutes that’s just mine, get in a comfy chair, put on headphones and forget about the rest of the stuff. It’s so relaxing, that sometimes I feel like I’m transported to another place. Away from my fears.

4. Walking a few miles or so, taking in my surroundings. Sometimes it’s the trees, a bird flying by, a beautiful sunset. Or maybe watching other people (I admit it, I’m an incurable people watcher), cloud formations. Whatever presents itself before me. Being in the moment.

5. I do run an epilepsy support group. (You could join one or start your own.) It’s helpful to hear other people’s fears and concerns and try to help each other. There’s a feeling of accomplishment, community, sharing and of course, making new friends. After all, aren’t we all in this together?

6. I try to do something new that’s creative. (Obviously, after 33 years, it’s not writing.) Right now, I’m trying to learn more about my camera, so I can take some real pictures, other than just of my cat.

7. There’s meds (yup, that too) and cognitive therapy (which has done a world of good for me).

I’d love to be able to meditate, but I just don’t have the attention span. Try deep muscle relaxation, but who has the time?

Or finally, confront my fears and think of what’s the worst thing that could happen?

Maybe some day. Soon.

Another article of interest:

What Does A Panic Attack Look Like?

What Does A Panic Attack Look Like? Watch This Young Woman’s Honest Video

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  1. These were great tips on handling panic attacks. I always pondered the thought of how closely related panic attacks are to seizures. They tend to have an aura and you do lose control during an attack. I would be interested in finding out that if during a panic attack, patients exhibit some of the same characteristics as seizures on EEG tracings.


    Comment by Springdale Clinic — January 17, 2013 @ 3:52 AM

  2. “Panic disorder has been found to be the most common condition that must be distinguished from seizure disorder. The possibility that panic disorder and temporal lobe epilepsy with ictal fear can be comorbid has also been raised.

    Multiple case reports have documented that patients initially diagnosed with panic disorder may later receive a diagnosis of temporal lobe seizures.

    Initial patient presentation can be quite varied. It has been proposed that panic attacks with an onset consistent with an epileptic aura may sometimes be the result of simple partial seizures with a psychological presentation.

    This hypothesis is supported by several lines of evidence, including concomitant symptoms, multiple cases with initial diagnosis of panic disorder but eventual electroencephalographic (EEG) documentation of seizures, comorbidity of the two conditions, nonepileptic EEG abnormalities in panic disorder, the proposed amygdala-driven kindling of the fear network, and limited clinical data suggesting successful treatment of panic attacks with antiepileptic medications.

    If the presentation is suggestive of epilepsy, EEG examination may be required to identify the characteristic spike/wave pattern of seizure discharge.

    A full evaluation for epilepsy may require 24-hour EEG and video monitoring or intracerebral depth electrodes with subdural grid arrays, as these procedures can sometimes identify abnormal electrical discharges not observed on routine EEG.

    High resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is recommended for visualization of the deep temporal lobe structures.

    This is particularly important for reliable separation of the amygdala and hippocampus in order to obtain accurate volume measurements.

    Given the similar clinical features and divergent treatments for these two diagnoses, it is imperative for the clinician to understand the neuroanatomical features of the temporal lobe and the noninvasive imaging techniques available to assist in decision-making.”



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 17, 2013 @ 10:38 AM

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on anxiety and hand tremor remedy.


    Comment by anxiety — July 28, 2014 @ 2:08 PM

  4. Two of my “favorite” subjects.

    I wish I could stop my hands from shaking, so I could take a decent picture.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 28, 2014 @ 2:48 PM

  5. i was one’s a man with the problem of Epilepsy,until i saw the post of some persons testifying about one Dr Izu,who can cure the problem of Epilepsy,i also contacted him and he told me all i need to do.that was how i got the treatment,and now am cured permanently.am free again.Any one with such problem can also contact him on +2349038504409 or izujohn9@gmail.com


    Comment by John — October 2, 2014 @ 8:05 PM

    • Hi Jon, can you explain a little more on HOW Dr. Izu cured you, how long it took, what location (city/state/country) and how much did it cost you?


      Comment by Aje — October 3, 2014 @ 1:17 PM

  6. Phylis can you edit the Breathing solution? Pursed Lip Breathing Exercise: The person needs to breath in thru nostrils, from the Diaphragm (note ribs rise) as opposed to Tummy. Plus, exhale should be twice as long as inhale. This exercise should be done daily, so as to make it a Habit! Suggested: Try doing the breathing exercise 10 times. More if necessary. Also, useful in helping people fall to sleep if done 2-3 times at bedtime. 🙂 Love Candi


    Comment by Candi — January 20, 2015 @ 6:57 AM

  7. Thanks for the help…I changed it in “Relaxation”, also. 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 20, 2015 @ 9:53 AM

  8. I can’t do the breathing exercize ritual,as I’ve been too hyper most of my life. The present med stopping my seizures, is Zonisamide and it is making me MORE speedy! Also, my left nostril is deviated and I’m not about to have a surgery to fix it, as no one can see it when I’m wearing eye glasses on TOP of it. I must wear glasses all the time. Phylis, can you tell me for what products you have written copy? This may be an abstract concept, but the only copy writers I’ve known wrote copy for products to sell either on TV or in print. Oh, and one guy who actually edited medical data for print. That was amazing! BTW, It’s nice to see your sunny face online in Facebook now and then.


    Comment by meesherMichele — January 20, 2015 @ 7:41 PM

  9. Michele, I’ve basically written about a zillion products: supplements, vitamins and all things wonderful and natural. With enough research to make your eyes spin.

    That’s how I write all this stuff. With research, research and research!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 21, 2015 @ 9:38 AM

  10. Last week in my Health and Life class, we covered a lot about how college students our one the most stressed individuals in the country because of the added responsibility between school and trying to get a job to help pay off the student loans. And since there is no middle class, learned this in my sociology class, anymore it is more difficult to find a living wage job.


    Comment by crystal cahill — February 16, 2015 @ 10:07 PM

    • Not to mention some students do have learning difficulties makes much more harder to keep a job.


      Comment by crystal cahill — February 16, 2015 @ 10:09 PM

      • I’ve read that many students, when they DO graduate, end up going home to live with their parents because of the staggering loan debt or just not being able to find appropriate jobs.

        Not much of a reward after the intense stress of college! 🙂


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 17, 2015 @ 9:21 AM

  11. I agree with you. But doing something else while you’re looking for a job like volunteering, you actually learn skills that will help you in the future. Though it does sometimes it sucks living in your parents house but setting ground rules between the parents and the adult children helps.


    Comment by crystal cahill — February 18, 2015 @ 12:07 AM

  12. I agree on both counts. But sometimes it’s hard to go home again.

    (I guess that’s where the rules come in…for a mutual understanding.)


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 18, 2015 @ 9:23 AM

  13. Hi, Phyllis,

    Have you heard of this device?

    I wonder if it is safe for people who have seizures. Which comes first — the anxiety, or the seizures? What is driving what?


    Comment by Martha — September 4, 2016 @ 9:08 PM

  14. Funny you should mention it Martha. I was so taken by the Fisher Wallace Stimulator that I was planning to research it — and any similar devices that are non drug depression suppressants. (At least those are the search words I would use to begin my research.)

    I (or they) might be dreaming, but it seemed a category that would be not only effective but in much demand. What do you think?

    And as far as your last question, it’s a two sided sword.

    At least one in every eight people with epilepsy also has depression. In a study of 70 treatment resistant people, 34% of the people showed significant depression.

    Therefore, it’s increasingly recognized that to improve the quality of life for many people with epilepsy, a “cure” must involve more than stopping or preventing seizures.

    It also must include improving the cognitive, behavioral, and emotional difficulties that can be an equally or more disabling part of this disorder.

    Seizures…Memory…Depression. YES, They Are Linked!



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 4, 2016 @ 11:02 PM

  15. Reblogged this on TBI Rehabilitation.


    Comment by Kostas Pantremenos — August 27, 2017 @ 7:06 PM

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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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