Epilepsy Talk

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Epilepsy | April 19, 2014

What was once known as “shell shock” is now called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (PTSD).

PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults, and while it’s impossible to predict who will develop PTSD in response to trauma, there are certain risk factors that increase your vulnerability.

Of course, the first thought is of veterans. But anyone can get PTSD at any age.

Going through trauma is not rare. About 6 out of every 10 (or 60%) of men and 5 of every 10 (or 50%) of women experience at least one trauma in their lives.

Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury.

It can result from a variety of traumatic incidents, such as mugging, rape, torture, being kidnapped or held captive, car accidents, train wrecks, plane crashes, bombings, attack, injury, or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.

People most likely to develop PTSD are those that:

Were directly exposed to the trauma as a victim or a witness…
Were seriously hurt during the event…
Went through a trauma that was long-lasting or very severe…
Believed that they were in danger…
Believed that a family member was in danger…
Had a severe reaction during the event and feeling apart from their surroundings…
Felt helpless during the trauma and were not able to help themselves or a loved one.

You are also more likely to develop PTSD if you:

Had an earlier life-threatening event or trauma, such as being abused as a child…
Have another mental health problem…
Have family members who have had mental health problems…
Have little support from family and friends…
Have recently lost a loved one, especially if it was not expected…
Have had recent, stressful life changes.

PTSD can affect those who personally experience the catastrophe, those who witness it, and those who pick up the pieces afterwards, including emergency workers and law enforcement officers. It can even occur in the friends or family members of those who went through the actual trauma.

While the symptoms of PTSD most commonly develop in the hours or days following the traumatic event, it can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years before they appear.

Some of these risk and resilience factors are present before the trauma and others become important during and after a traumatic event.

The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time.

Sometimes symptoms appear seemingly out of the blue.

At other times, they are triggered by something that reminds you of the original traumatic event, such as a noise, an image, certain words, or a smell.

Signs and Symptoms

Flashbacks — reliving the trauma over and over, with physical symptoms like a racing heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating, bad dreams or frightening thoughts…
Difficulty in falling or staying asleep…
Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine…
Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing…
Avoidance symptoms — staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the terror experienced…
Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma…
Loss of interest in activities and life in general…
Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb…
Feeling alienated and alone…
Sense of a limited future (not expecting to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)…
Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry.

Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine.

For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car.

Hyperarousal symptoms

Being easily startled and constantly on “red alert”…
Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts…
Feeling jumpy and easily startled…
Difficulty concentrating…
Feelings of mistrust and betrayal…
Depression and hopelessness…
Substance abuse…
Suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic event.

They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.

It’s natural to have some of these symptoms after a dangerous event.

Sometimes people have very serious symptoms that go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder, or ASD.

But, going through a trauma does not mean you’ll get PTSD. Even though over half of us go through some type of trauma, a much smaller percent develop PTSD.

PTSD and the Military

Roadside bombs and other blasts have made head injury the “signature wound” of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Most combat veterans recover from mild traumatic brain injury, also known as concussion, but a small minority experience significant and long-term side effects.

If you are in the military, you may have seen combat. You may have been on missions that exposed you to horrible and life-threatening experiences.

You may have been shot at, seen a buddy shot, or seen death. These are types of events that can lead to PTSD.

Experts think PTSD occurs:

In about 30% of Vietnam Veterans, or about 30 out of 100 Vietnam Veterans
In as many as 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) Veterans, or in 10 Gulf War Veterans out of 100…
In about 11-20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom), or in the range of 11-20 Veterans out of 100 who served in OEF/OIF.

The Next Steps for PTSD Research

In the last decade, rapid progress in research on the mental and biological foundations of PTSD has led scientists to focus on prevention as a realistic and important goal.

For example, NIMH-funded researchers are exploring new and orphan medications thought to target underlying causes of PTSD in an effort to prevent the disorder.

Other research is attempting to enhance cognitive, personality, and social protective factors and to minimize risk factors and ward off full-blown PTSD after trauma.

Still other research is attempting to identify what factors determine whether someone with PTSD will respond well to one type of intervention or another, aiming to develop more personalized, effective and efficient treatments.

As gene research and brain imaging technologies continue to improve, scientists are more likely to be able to pinpoint when and where in the brain PTSD begins.

This understanding may then lead to better targeted treatments to suit each person’s own needs or even prevent the disorder before it causes harm.

Also, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, in cooperation with Resurrecting Lives Foundation, are using advanced MRI technology and psychological tests to investigate the structural and biological impact of repeated head injury on the brain and to assess how these injuries affect cognitive function.

“Right now, doctors diagnose concussion purely on the basis of someone’s symptoms,” said Michael Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., associate director of Einstein’s Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center.

“We hope that our research will lead to a more scientifically valid diagnostic technique — one that uses imaging to not only detect the underlying brain injury but reveal its severity.

Such a technique could also objectively evaluate therapies aimed at healing the brain injuries responsible for concussions.”

An award-winning site for trauma information and support can be found at: http://www.trauma-pages.com/support.php

Other articles of interest:

Study Finds Drug That Could Prevent Injury-Related Epilepsy


IV Ketamine Rapidly Effective in PTSD http://www.medpagetoday.com/Psychiatry/AnxietyStress/45314?xid=nl_mpt_guptaguide_2014-04-17&utm_source=guptaguide&utm_medium=email&utm_content=mpt&utm_campaign=04|17|2014&userid=678261&eun=g5845718d10r

Commonly available blood-pressure medication prevents epilepsy after severe brain injury   http://www.sciencecodex.com/commonly_available_bloodpressure_medication_prevents_epilepsy_after_severe_brain_injury-132182

To subscribe to Epilepsytalk.com and get the latest articles by email, simply go to the bottom of the right column and click on “Sign me up!”



  1. It sound,s like your talking about anxiety attack,s. That,s what happen,s when I get around people and crowd,s


    Comment by michele metzger — December 7, 2016 @ 8:01 PM

  2. Definitely, it’s a kind of anxiety attack.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 7, 2016 @ 8:05 PM

  3. Normal persons recover quickly abnormal persons recovery rate is slow we have to adjust to their situations and make them realize the importance of life

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Yusuf — September 11, 2018 @ 8:36 AM

  4. Thanks again, Phylis. After the assault, I couldn’t sleep for a year. I would head his voice. I would avoid where he would be, even though I had a history of community activism there far longer than he worked there. After I moved, I would avoid that area. It took a year before I could go by that neighborhood without wanting to cry. Then I had to go back to the building, and I saw one of them. It’s all flooding back. I am trying to work through it. I am a different person. But there is no justice. I know there is karma. But still.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by megambon2164 — December 22, 2018 @ 10:09 AM

  5. I’m sorry you went through such a terrible time, Mary Ellen.

    But I too, believe in Karma.

    For example, my step-mother will get hers after having my father disown my from my father’s (3 generations old) family business.

    She took it for herself and then sold it.

    I can’t even hear her name, no less look at her face.

    In fact we had two separate funerals, so I wouoldn’t have to see her! 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 22, 2018 @ 10:50 AM

  6. I wonder if I have PTSD from my grandmother’s abuse as well, and also because of what she did to my mom and me over the decades. I couldn’t go to her funeral, because I couldn’t face the rest of the family either. Mom and I were the peacekeepers. My uncle’s wife stole half of the house I was supposed to get. I was told as a child that God only gives you what you can handle. Between the abuse and my health, I must be Vin Diesel! 😉


    Comment by megambon2164 — December 22, 2018 @ 10:55 AM

  7. LOL!

    As you said before, she WILL get her karma.

    But abuse in childhood, during your formative years, can unfortunately last forever.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — December 22, 2018 @ 11:04 AM

  8. For years I was having severe seizures that placed me in status epilepticus for hours. Three time it surpassed 6 hours, two events were over 11 hours. Suddenly I began having the same nightmare several times a night. During that nightmare I dreamed another Generalized Tonic Clonic put me in status epilepticus for hours then I was looking down on myself from above as the doctors told my parents “The seizure ended his life.” It was so real I truthfully believed it was a sign and was going to happen. Two decades later and I still am a light sleeper and occasionally have that same nightmare (at least once a month). Already had 3 parts of my brain surgically removed and in the fall will get depth electrodes to possibly have one or even two more pieces removed. The Epilepsy has given me PTSD without a doubt.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Greg Van De Moortele — May 25, 2019 @ 7:22 PM

  9. I’ll never deny what was commented about PTSD is real & accurate. There seems to be 1 root cause that is never mentioned and that is most if not all neurological drugs, from Prozac & others, as we all have taken KEPPRA, which can make anyone feel like their world is ending & you have NO CONTROL of your thoughts & actions. which WILL create STRESS in more ways than 1. I used & took Keppra 2 times 10 years apart. Both times I hated it, but I guess I was to just say KA SARA SARA WHATEVER WILL BE WILL BE.. but I ask, WHO & WHAT would I been like today is since 2004 I denied my thoughts, feelings & actions, and decided to stay on KEPPRA never knowing if I would not had 1 seizure in the past 15 years when I started the 1st time ? Odds are that STRESS would had created a few seizures & who knows WHAT ELSE,, but AED’s & other brain drugs will never get blamed for anything else we could get from taking them.My neurologist saw a BIG difference in me when he had to see me instead of listening to me through his nurse by a few phone calls to their office.In their world I guess ”seeing is believing” but not with me, when you live with something you never want & can not get rid of it, BUT WHO sees seizures when you have them, besides maybe a family member, & Who accepts you when they KNOW YOU HAVE SEIZURES & they know you take drugs for them ? Yeah,, I think we all know those answers, & WHAT gets blamed or NOT blamed for PSTD & everything else brain related.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by C D — June 16, 2019 @ 7:04 AM

  10. I have had my condition of seizures for over 58 years & I’ll be 59 next week, & never think that God will allow me to have some other brain condition. I know there is a difference from having WORRY & denying REALITY, yet God is in control of everything & we are not to worry, as I ask, Is PSTD & other brain conditions, even seizures, are a condition more so because we do worry & focus on the condition, more than other things in Life ? This is why I take things 1 day at a time & never plan or think of any future on this earth, Not saying i am not thinking about the future & working for that mansion or whatever that I am promised by God to have in Heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by C D — June 16, 2019 @ 7:13 AM

  11. C D, I think PTSD is a condition, not necessarily brought on by drugs.

    I agree that drugs can exasperate the situation, but that in mind, is only a secondary condition.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 16, 2019 @ 11:19 AM

  12. I’m a 66yr old disabled woman with epilepsy. It’s only been recently that I have been looking for other people who have walked in my shoes.
    Everyone who suffers with epilepsy has extended a psychological effect on some level your either in severe denial or surrounded with love and compassion all your life.
    I want compassionate contact from people who carry the same cross. I figure doing it in a community is better than independently isolating.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Leslie Wetter — May 17, 2021 @ 3:49 PM

    • Welcome Leslie. I think you have found the right place. Epilepsy Talk is a community of caring and sharing where people exchange information, problems, solutions, and all that comes with compassion.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 17, 2021 @ 5:20 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    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.

    View Full Profile →

    Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive free notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 3,124 other followers

    Follow Epilepsy Talk on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: