Epilepsy Talk

Seizures…Memory…Depression. YES, They Are Linked! | November 17, 2016

At least one in every eight people with epilepsy also has depression.

Epilepsy can have different effects on memory functions and depression for various reasons.

Because the portion of the brain where memory and emotions are stored — the limbic system — can be disturbed by epileptic seizures.

In fact, memory problems are one of the most reported problems that coincide with epilepsy.

The normal processes that the brain goes through in storing memory may be disrupted during an epileptic seizure.

Loss of consciousness that occurs along with seizures can result in a loss of memory.

Usually, the memory loss is at the time immediately prior to the seizure, however, there have been exceptions to this.

People with Temporal Lobe epilepsy are especially prone to memory loss.

Because those seizures usually begin in the deeper portions of the temporal lobe — especially the limbic system.

And since TLE is often medication resistant, the result is memory loss, often coupled with depression.

In a study of 70 treatment resistant people, 34% of the people showed significant depression.

They also had poorer performance on measures of intelligence, language, perception, memory, and executive function.

Severity of depressive symptoms were associated with the level of memory impairment in TLE patients.

Especially for people with a left-sided seizure focus.

And at the time of the study, depression seemed to be under-recognized and under-treated, since none of the people were in any kind of treatment.

In addition, it’s also important to understand that epilepsy is more than just a syndrome of seizures.

Other cognitive, behavioral, and emotional changes are present.

Although in the past, these have been generally viewed as side-effects of seizures.

And it has been presumed they would disappear once seizures were adequately controlled.

But since they may precede seizures, these conditions don’t uniformly resolve if seizures are fully controlled.

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.

Coping with epilepsy is an ongoing battle. And until the physiological and emotional issues are addressed, the struggle will continue.


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  1. I know what is like having memory loss, depression, anxiety, and being over med. I had to deal with it all my life, But I still go on.


    Comment by michele metzger — November 17, 2016 @ 2:07 PM

  2. I know. You’re a real trooper, Michele!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 17, 2016 @ 2:22 PM

  3. Memory is an ongoing issue, but depression and anxiety are drug-related for me. Anxiety to the point of shaking bad enough to type poorly sent me to the neurologist lately. I’d had a drug change recently, and I was over-medicated. Switched to an extended release version and it made a huge difference. I also visited the GP, who cut an antidepressant in half suspecting serotonin syndrome. That was Monday. Today I can drink coffee again and not explode. Common everyday memory problems include:

    All this is great stuff, but that memory thing never changes. In the ‘Related Articles’ section below this post links to one of your earlier blogs on epilepsy listing 5 common problems:

    1. Being unable to come up with a word that we feel is “on the tip of our tongue”, apparently because of a verbal memory processing problem.
    2. Having to go back to check to see if something was done, such as turning off the stove, probably reflecting a failure to pay adequate attention at the time.
    3. Forgetting where we put something, probably a visual-spatial memory process problem.
    4. A verbal malfunction, where you know the words or names, but just can’t come up with them.
    5. Not remembering what has been said or been told is another.

    I feel like I own these, but imagine I share them with a lot of your readers.


    Comment by Kate Jacques — November 17, 2016 @ 2:53 PM

    • Kate, I’m with you on all FIVE!

      Perhaps you’ll enjoy the following article:

      Memory Tips You (Hopefully) Won’t Forget!



      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 17, 2016 @ 3:37 PM

      • I enjoyed the article (I get lost, too) – also the one on brain games. I signed up for Luminosity, which has great concentration exercises. Good fun until you start swearing about which way the birds are flying or hit too many lamp posts in the driving game.


        Comment by Kate Jacques — November 17, 2016 @ 3:58 PM

      • Glad you liked the article. (My husband calls me “The Lost Girl.”)

        And brain games are great, if you can keep your patience (and memory) intact!


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 17, 2016 @ 4:03 PM

  4. Yes, as the above reader commented, do we really know how much of the memory loss and/or depression issues that correlate with epilepsy are actually caused by the actual seizures or caused by the seizure medication?

    Have you run across any research, Phyllis, that teases out these variables? That would be interesting.

    Also many folks then start taking multiple meds to combat the side effects of the seizure meds from digestive issues to sleep disturbances etc. Then you get the side effects of the meds meant to control the side effects of the meds. And so on.


    Comment by paleobird — November 17, 2016 @ 3:30 PM

  5. Paleobird, it’s a vicious cycle isn’t it?

    Per medication — from a previous article:

    “Memory problems can sometimes happen due to the side-effects of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs).

    Drowsiness or attention problems can affect your short-term memory, and may make it more difficult to learn and store new information.

    You may be more likely to have memory problems if you take high doses or more than one type of AED.

    Memory problems rarely disappear completely following drug changes.

    But taking AEDs may help to improve your memory by making seizures less frequent or by stopping them completely.”

    As for seizures:

    “Chemical and electrical changes happen in your brain when new memories are made.

    It’s a natural brain process that requires continuing attention and recording by parts of your brain.

    Seizures interfere with your memory by interfering with attention or input of information.

    Confusion often follows a seizure, and during this foggy time, new memory traces aren’t being laid down in the brain.

    Tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures in which you lose consciousness can interfere with normal brain processes and disrupt the registration phase of short-term memory.

    Sometimes longer term memories from the period prior to the seizure are lost as well, since these memories may have not yet being fully integrated into your brain’s memory system.

    There are many different ways to classify how memory works.

    Some people rely more on their verbal memory, remembering in terms of words or sounds, while others use their visual memory, relying on pictures or spatial relationships.

    This can be for lots of reasons, including the type of seizures you have, the effects of medication, the effect of concentration or mood, lack of sleep, age, or the effect of epilepsy surgery.”


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 17, 2016 @ 3:48 PM

  6. People with seizures are basically judged by others, because of WHAT & HOW they think of us, due to our effects of living with seizures. When people go without a seizure, then we almost can be like most others who have no seizures in their life. So when we all take these AED’s with ALUMINUM LAKE. MICROCRYSTALINE CELLULOSE, SUCROLOSE, aka ASPARTAME, Magnesium STEARATE, Hydrogenized soy or vegetable oils, & other chemicals used as FILLERS, Is it any wonder we all can lose our memory, not able to sleep and get depressed ? These drug industries know 1000% what they make for us will never be a full 100% seizure proof drug/s when all the side effects will cause STRESS which also can create seizures when taking all drugs we are suppose to have. So I ask,,, Is it the epilepsy condition alone that causes the MEMORY LOSS, DEPRESSION, LACK OF SLEEP, & STRESS on top of it all that help create all the side effects & the seizures, when people living the condition of seizures are all too ready to blame the seizure condition, and not looking at the drugs which are of no help to 80% of us who have just been killing the neurons in the brain from the drug uses that FDA, AAN & neurologists claim are safe to take. Right, and I know what my brain tells me,,, which leads to a book called ””THE REWIRED BRAIN”” written by Ski Chilton,,,,, as it is worth buying knowing how the human brain, 2 system process works BUT you have to be aware HOW the brain is acting, thinking, and responding to seizures, people, & so many other daily STRESSES a person is living with 365 days a year. Also taking a good PRO-BIOTIC ENZYME seems to have good results to slow down or stop the seizures, by calming the never endings from GUT to BRAIN PERQUE brand seems to be the best brand one can get for the brain & all the immune system relating to digestion & brain health as it is the main immune system organ, when all nerve endings really gets to the brain 24/7 from ALL parts of the body but the gut along is the 2nd brain in how all parts of the brain reacts or responds based on HOW you think & act to any event of life.


    Comment by C D — November 17, 2016 @ 6:27 PM

  7. Poison in, poison out. That’s just what BIG Pharma wants.

    Here’s an article you might like:

    Probiotics — Food For Thought



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 17, 2016 @ 6:35 PM

    • Phyllis, I take many Dr. Mercola vitamins including his Probiotic, his magnesium -L-Threonate (he claims it is better absorbed). He also says not to take vitamins with magnesium sterate and most vitamins have it In. What do you think?


      Comment by Mary Jane Levell — November 17, 2016 @ 7:29 PM

      • Why not magnesium stearate? Just curious since it’s in all the vitamins I’ve been taking. …


        Comment by Crystal ann — November 20, 2016 @ 9:12 PM

  8. There are zillions of supplements and I wrote for a Health and Wellness (supplement ) company for 10 years.

    I think Mercola’s the real deal.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 17, 2016 @ 8:51 PM

  9. Over time I have been able to adapt somewhat to the seizures, the concussions, the med side-effects like hair loss, tremors, nausea, welts, etc. But, memory loss has been the last straw. Maybe watching my mother suffer for yrs from Alzheimer’s. Really, do we, with Epilepsy deserve this quality of life? Kinda like substituting one awful thing for another, on and on.


    Comment by Susan — November 21, 2016 @ 10:36 PM

  10. Crystal Ann — magnesium stearate is the most commonly used lubricant for tablets. That’s why you see it in your supplement descriptions.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 22, 2016 @ 7:13 PM

  11. Magnesium Stearate WILL make any colon/digestive track work in a 1st gear or a no gear ”N” when the elimination process of the body STOPS, unless a person can stop using the bath room for other reasons. If toxins can not eliminate out of the body, MORE seizures will only happen to anyone, from the use of magnesium Stearate ot any other stearate one can be taking daily. Taking DILANTIN for my 1st 26 years of life taught me this, when I went off of it at age 27, my digestive track has never been like my 1st 26 years of life when DILANTIN was with me everywhere for 26 years.


    Comment by C D — May 18, 2017 @ 7:04 PM

    • So C D, you’re saying Magnesium Stearate not a valid natural “lubricant” and agree with Mary Jane?

      Are we talking about severe constipation?

      Because when I was on Dilantin, that was when my digestive problems began. (And believe me, they weren’t constipation.)


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 18, 2017 @ 10:01 PM

  12. Reblogged this on Karen's mixed up mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by karebear1967 — August 24, 2018 @ 10:14 AM

  13. I have left temporal lobe epilepsy and very bad memory loss. It interferes with my quality of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Andrea Muska — March 24, 2020 @ 11:33 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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