Epilepsy Talk

Seizures…Memory…Depression. YES, They Are Linked! | May 13, 2020

At least one third of people with epilepsy also have 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.


To subscribe to Epilepsy Talk and get the latest articles, simply go to the bottom box of the right column, enter your email address and click on “Follow”










  1. And somehow doctors blame you for being depressed, as if it were a moral flaw, like seizures. Ok, granted, not all doctors or other people are like that, just enough to make a person wary.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by HoDo — May 13, 2020 @ 10:57 AM

  2. Ok. Let them spend a few weeks with epilepsy and see how they feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 13, 2020 @ 11:07 AM

  3. Let me say memory and depression can remain a problem after surgery. How long it stays a problem you have a lot to do with. You’ve had your hippocampus removed and it will affect your memory but you can look for ways to overcome it.

    I started out forgetting everything I just learned about my job but with a second chance at learning and retaining it, I saw the improvement. I feel I still have a problem with depression but the size of the problem shrinks when I make myself notice where I was compared to where I am now.

    I know there aren’t many people I can speak for but I just want to show epilepsy doesn’t have to control your life forever.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Ed Lugge — May 13, 2020 @ 12:26 PM

  4. Good for you Ed!

    I suspect that learning the second time around wasn’t a walk in the park. You must have had plenty of perseverance.

    And the disciple towards your depression. I wish all of all could take that attitude.

    But yours is an extraordinary situation, compared to most.

    I salute you, for taking charge of your life and not letting anything (including epilepsy), stand in your way.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 13, 2020 @ 2:03 PM

    • Thank you, Phylis, for the positive response. That’s another way to conquer depression.

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by Ed Lugge — May 13, 2020 @ 10:04 PM

      • Goodevening Ed 😊. I hope all is well and your doing good 😊. I have TLE but never had the surgery. On the flip side I’ve always been told that either “I AM VERY STUBBORN” OR “VERY PERSEVERANT”!! Of course being who I am I never really thought of it as “perseverance or stubbornness”, but more maybe pushing myself or simply not allowing myself to give up at all!! However now a days even I have to admit I am learning when to start listening to my body and taking a break or rest or eat when I know I should. I am on one antidepressant (was on 3) and it’s primarily to help me sleep. Although I will admit even though I weaned myself off of 2 antidepressants (risperidone and citolapram) there have been times when I almost asked to be put back on them but didn’t. I do agree with you in the fact that only another epileptic or their loved one would truly understand us!! It is very difficult YES BUT PLEASE BEING A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL for THOSE OF US WHO TRULY APPRECIATE YOU AND YOUR WISDOM!! Thank you 🙏🏼🦅😇💕

        Liked by 2 people

        Comment by Kathy S.B — May 16, 2020 @ 1:49 AM

      • Thank you, Kathy. I’m doing fine.

        A good way to overcome your own depression is to see how you’re helping others with theirs so your response is very much appreciated.

        Liked by 3 people

        Comment by Ed Lugge — May 16, 2020 @ 11:35 AM

      • 😊. Funny how you mention that. Sometimes I have to wonder if it’s in our genes?

        Liked by 2 people

        Comment by Kathy S.B — May 18, 2020 @ 4:13 PM

  5. I had brain surgery 4 years ago on the right side for the epilepsy, than after a few months they did burrow hole surgery on each side of the head to clean out blood that was in the head putting pressure on the brain as I could not move by legs easily and had difficulty with my balance when walking. I was really depressed.
    The following year the doctor put a shunt in the brain as I was having headaches everyday.
    The following year once again I start to have problems with my balance and pain in the legs. Went to see the doctor, they found that the shunt in the head was blocked, so it had to be replaced.
    So they cut my head open again and replaced it.

    Is this normal, has this happened to any one else?

    Nothing goes right in my life.
    Life is just not worth living. What for?
    I suffered now everyday with headaches and worries.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by sam — May 14, 2020 @ 6:17 AM

    • Oh, Sam. I can see why you’re depressed. So many surgeries with little relief.

      But there are things worth living for. Those who care about you and love you. It would be a punishment to them.

      Don’t even think of ending your life. I’ve been there and it’s not a pretty place.

      I went into status, had two heart attacks, then into an induced comma for five days and then another five days of rehab.

      Whatever you’re thinking, don’t think of that, please!


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 14, 2020 @ 10:37 AM

  6. To my fellow depressives: there seems to be no cure for either the depression caused by the condition itself, or the depression that’s a reaction to the condition.

    However, there are work-arounds. I find that depression is intimately bound up with anger and fear (terror?) and other so-called negative but understandable emotions. To get out from under, my choice is curiosity.

    The world is full of such wonders. Surgery to the back of the eye? May I see the scalpel? Wow! And, looking outwards, this morning I finally found out how that splendid banana flower on a neighbor’s tree “makes” bunches of baby bananas. Wow!

    Things like that thin out the anger and distract from depression and its related emotional states. If you let the bad stuff go on too long, it becomes something called “emotional inflammation,” where you’re never really free of it. Curiosity takes me out of myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by HoDo — May 14, 2020 @ 1:23 PM

  7. Take time to smell the roses and revel in all that is around you.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 14, 2020 @ 1:26 PM

    • I actually have a rose bush me and my grandma planted in my back yard. She asked me what kind of plant/tree I would want? I said a rose bush/tree because it’s pretty and it smells like love ❤️. She bought one and her and I planted it together. She said every year it will grow back and every year it grows back to remember love never goes away 🙏🏼🦅😇❤️ it always comes back 😘. Lol then she said I would have to tend to it every year (and she showed me how too). Funny how while she was tending to it she was getting poked with the needles and she told me “DARN IT!! Just REMEMBER KATHY LOVE HURTS TOO!! 🙏🏼🦅😇😘❤️”. Was she EVER RIGHT!! It grows back EVERY YEAR RIGHT ON MY BIRTHDAY TOO!! 😘🙏🏼🦅😇❤️😘

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by Kathy S.B — May 18, 2020 @ 5:03 PM

  8. Go to coursera.org and click on “The Science of Well Being” in the left column to join a free class of about 2-1/2 million students learning how to feel better, based on sound scientific principles.

    Not taught by me or anyone I know, just happened onto it.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by HoDo — May 14, 2020 @ 3:02 PM

  9. Oh HoDo, the source of all things wonderful.

    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 14, 2020 @ 3:23 PM

    • Please, please, my famous humility is feeling strained. An occasional wonderful thing, is all.

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by HoDo — May 14, 2020 @ 4:01 PM

  10. I have been seizure free for 38 years. However, I experience depression, memory issues, crying and laughing at seemingly inappropriate times, difficulty and slowness in comprehension a overall cognitive function, and feeling of being overwhelmed. I’m trying to figure out if this is epilepsy related and what to do.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Doug — May 14, 2020 @ 3:41 PM

    • Doug, This may sound like an over-simplistic solution: to say to yourself, for example, “Oh, there’s that inappropriate laughter,” and then let it go. Most of the time that works with my hallucinations.

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by HoDo — May 14, 2020 @ 4:04 PM

    • It could be because the portion of the brain where memory and emotions are stored — the limbic system — is being disturbed by epileptic seizures.

      The limbic system is a complex system of nerves and networks in the brain, involving several areas near the edge of the cortex concerned with instinct, mood and memory.

      I hope that helps.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 14, 2020 @ 4:04 PM

  11. As I’ve mentioned, I’m a huge proponent of talk therapy for depression. Yes Hodo, fresh air, sweet flowers and a warm hug can briefly help, but are often not enough for someone in the midst of a deep, dark depression.
    Sam, you may be able to benefit by calling the suicide hotline. It’s a really hard time for many people right now. Teletherapy is also available.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by skolly9 — May 14, 2020 @ 6:04 PM

    • I didn’t mean to imply that therapy has no place, only that if I’m having seizures and they cause depression, there are other ways of minimizing the effects of that emotion. (Hugs is not one. Mostly touch makes things worse.)

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by HoDo — May 14, 2020 @ 6:22 PM

    • Smelling the roses is lovely, but I ALSO am in “Talk Therapy” (which, at the moment is teletherapy) AND I take antidepressants.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 14, 2020 @ 6:40 PM

  12. Hodo, please forgive me for seemingly undermining what you said. Believe me, the sweet simplicity of life is so important. However, I guess I am especially sensitive to how society (as a whole) loves the “quick feel good” approach to feeling better; food, booze, drugs, material possessions , to try and not deal with thoughts and feelings. It works briefly, absolutely, but not really long term.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by skolly9 — May 14, 2020 @ 7:09 PM

  13. See thementalhealthcoalition.org for (almost) everything together in one place.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by HoDo — May 15, 2020 @ 11:44 AM

  14. Well I don’t drink booze neither does my husband and we only take the drugs the doctor makes us take. I learned decades ago that material things are just that material but to me it’s the memories (the ones we make with our family, friends, spouse, children and grandchildren sometimes great grandchildren like me) and the heart that matter the most! 🙏🏼🦅😇❤️😘

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Kathy S.B — May 18, 2020 @ 5:08 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 )

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 3,265 other subscribers
    Follow Epilepsy Talk on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: