Epilepsy Talk

Can You Believe It? | January 20, 2020

Just when you thought the modern world was becoming enlightened, there are still a whole lot of myths and fears about epilepsy — fueled by ignorance and misinformation.

These fears might sound ridiculous to you…but they’re real for those who don’t know better.

Myth: Epilepsy is contagious.

Fact: Epilepsy cannot be caught from contact with a person with epilepsy.

Myth: People with epilepsy cannot be employed.

Fact: Many people with epilepsy are successful in all types of professions. Political leaders, philosophers, writers, celebrities, athletes and many others who have achieved greatness in the arts and sciences, suffer from epilepsy.

Myth: People with epilepsy are physically limited in what they can do.

Fact: In most cases epilepsy is not a barrier to physical achievement. In some circumstances, when seizures are not being well controlled, persons with epilepsy may be advised to refrain from certain activities such as driving an automobile, working at heights or working with certain machinery.

Myth: Only kids get epilepsy.

Fact: Although epilepsy is more common in children and teens under age 15, epilepsy happens quite often to older adults, especially those with a history of stroke, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, more than 570,000 adults age 65 and above in the U.S. have the condition.

Myth: Epilepsy is rare and there aren’t many people who have it.

Fact: Epilepsy in America is as common as breast cancer. There are more than twice as many people with epilepsy in the US as the number of people with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and cystic fibrosis combined. Epilepsy can occur as a single condition, or may accompany other conditions affecting the brain, such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, autism, Alzheimer’s, and traumatic brain injury.

Myth: Epilepsy is no longer a problem since there are medications to treat it.

Fact: More than 3.4 million Americans of all ages are living with epilepsy. Almost 500 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed every day in the United States. Unfortunately, treatment does not prevent seizures for everyone. Researchers continue to look for new ways to combat this disorder.

Myth: You can’t die from epilepsy.

Fact: Epilepsy can become a life-threatening medical condition when seizures cannot be stopped. This year an 50,000 will die of seizures and related causes. Patients with epilepsy have a mortality rate two to three times more than that of the general population, and their risk of sudden death is 24 times greater.








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  1. Thank you for making us better informed ..♥️


    Comment by maryleeparker — January 20, 2020 @ 11:47 AM

  2. Life can be very challenging if one has epilepsy. Mine started after a brain tumor removal, at age 38. One thing is sure at least for me and that is i have far fewer seizures now that i’m retired and don’t have to work. Work can bring a lot of mental stress which can activate seizures, unless you have some type of home job. Dating if u are a man can be extremely complicated since a lot of people still believe it’s contagious or confuse it with leprosy. 🙂


    Comment by Zolt — January 20, 2020 @ 12:20 PM

  3. I know your working life was very productive, if stressful, Zolt.

    And yes, I agree, dating is definitely a challenge.

    Epilepsy and Romance — Getting Personal


    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 20, 2020 @ 12:30 PM

  4. Thanks Phylis for putting the delicate issues associated with epilepsy out there for us who go through something similar to think, “Oh, thank God, it’s not just me” who has experienced this kind of treatment. So Phylis and Zolt, the whole issue of Can You Believe it? is still so prevalent in so many diverse and UNBELIEVABLE ways. My most recent example is that a colleague of mine called me to talk of an employment opportunity. I will give him utmost credit for that; however, part of that conversation still involved whether or not I had my “problem” under control. Oh, how I had to edit my response to him right there on the spot. I replied, “Yes, for now, my seizures are under control.” That was as honest as I could be – “for NOW my seizures are under control.” Perhaps others undergoing somewhat similar circumstances can know that they are not alone in this.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by George Choyce — January 20, 2020 @ 3:23 PM

  5. Thanks lots George.

    You know legally, a prospective employer cannot ask you if you have epilepsy.

    But rather, you can decide whether and when you want to disclose it.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 20, 2020 @ 4:09 PM

  6. Employment is a particularly complex issue that you know about in my life. I am sure that that holds true in the lives of some of your other readers. This particular potential employer already knew that I have epilepsy. So it’s a gray area in many ways. Unfortunately, early on in my attempt to re-enter the working world, some potential employers were requiring a letter from my neurologist stating that I would not have another seizure.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by George Choyce — January 20, 2020 @ 5:41 PM

  7. Well, if that’s not discrimination, I don’t know what is!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 20, 2020 @ 5:45 PM

  8. George Choyce,

    I am sorry you went through such humiliation from such ignorance. What a sorry *excuse in cutting you off! They couldn’t even say “NO” to your face. Wow! What a Coward. On the other hand, I had the manager of a restaurant TEAR UP my application and throw it in the trash can–in front of me! It must have made him feel REAL BIG. The new building was still being worked on. Applicants applied outside. To this day, I will never go to any TGI FRIDAY Restaurant. *You ARE A WINNER, George Choyce!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Effie Erhardt — January 20, 2020 @ 6:27 PM

  9. Effie – thank you for your encouraging comments. So much of what Phylis brings up in this column so aptly named Can You Believe it? are the lingering misperceptions about epilepsy. I mean, it’s 2020! For instance, the ignorance that “Epilepsy is no longer a problem since there are medications to treat it” still haunts me. I’m on a nasty combination of anti-seizure medication, but it does its job. All my neurologist can do is to provide an official letter that states that I have my seizures under control for now. (Maybe this will help someone else.)

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by George Choyce — January 20, 2020 @ 7:14 PM

  10. I use to tell the truth bout my EP and never got hire even a company wanted someone like me but said my ep stopping him, Thats when I started lieing and got alkinds of dangerous and safe jobs but I didnt care, I want to work and thats what it took. Then got a job at GM working on assembly line and never had problem but I also knew when a sz was coming and mind lasted 10 seconds then back what was doing and later became a electrician working with live wires and now retired after 30 yrs and 24 yrs sz free been married 42 yrs we have 1 son 2 grandkids and enjoying life more now and good pension and dont regret lieing getting jobs

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Terry & Judy Fields — January 20, 2020 @ 10:27 PM

  11. Epilepsy used to be my “dirty secret”.

    I withheld the information and when I felt an aura coming on, I’d close the door and hit the floor, before the floor hit me.

    One time, the copier outside my office was on fire and they evacuated the building.

    Of course, I was out cold.

    When I came out of my office an hour later, I asked “Where’s the copier”?

    They all looked at me as if I had come from Mars!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — January 21, 2020 @ 9:36 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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