Epilepsy Talk

Epilepsy: Meditation vs. Medication | September 18, 2020

Neither is mutually exclusive.

You can have medication without meditation. Most of us do.

You can do meditation without medication. Most of us wouldn’t and shouldn’t take that risk.

But together, they can enhance one another.

That’s why meditation is considered part of Complementary Alternative Medicine. (CAM)

The operative word here is: complimentary.

Some benefit by meditation tremendously. Some don’t. And for others, meditation incites seizures.

The decision is yours (and your doctor’s).

While meditation doesn’t replace medication, it may play a significant role in reducing stress-related seizures.

And who doesn’t have stress? Who wouldn’t like to dump it?

Of course the subject has incited studies, medical articles, controversies and many opinions.

Here’s the tip of the iceberg….


First of all, there are many different forms of meditation.

But in general, meditation is a way of focusing the mind in the present moment.

You don’t have to sit in a weird position or chant or listen to Indian music.

One small study of adults with epilepsy who practiced meditation for 20 minutes per day for a year, found that they had fewer, shorter seizures and a change in EEG patterns.

The patients in the control group didn’t show significant changes.

UCLA neurologist Jerome Engel clearly thinks there is some value in meditation.

Engel described reasons to believe that meditation might help control seizures.

It increases hippocampus growth, increases fiber connectivity throughout the brain, and generates lots of activity in the mesial temporal lobe, where a lot of epilepsy is focused.

But he did acknowledge that the studies on meditation and seizure control were ambiguous at best: some even suggested that meditation could bring on seizures!


Meditation has been reported to be potentially dangerous for people with epilepsy.

Neuroimaging advances in EEG, fMRI, PET and SPECT techniques have brought with them new insight to our understanding of how various relaxation techniques alter our brain function.

Recent studies show that meditation can have complex influences on the brain, which change mental, neuron-hormonal and autonomic functions such as: erratic EEG activity, increase in both brain serotonin and glutamate, (further exciting neurons), and perhaps, triggering seizures.

So, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks, as well as the benefits of meditation, if you have epilepsy.

Maybe so.

There are many ways the relaxation that comes with meditation can be helpful in managing stress and improving the quality of life.

These shouldn’t be overlooked.

But, so far these are studies. Further research is needed.

Because, as of now, there is no definitive evidence to support either the danger or effectiveness of meditation in epilepsy.

In others words, the jury is still out.

But until someone tells me to stop, I’m going to continue taking my meds and meditate on a daily basis.

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  1. Interesting… I wonder if being too much into your mind (for lack of better phrasing… my brain is blank right now) can alter consciousness? If I’m in a very involved conversation with someone and they’re describing something vividly to me, I get that unsettling sensation of blanking out and coming back and I forget where I’ve been, like I went away. My partials would feel like that. I wonder if meditation would help this or exacerbate this type of experience?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Hetty Eliot — September 18, 2020 @ 4:53 PM

    • Well one thing that meditation stresses is “mindfulness,” in other words, being in the moment.

      The question remains if being in the moment means you alone or with other people. (eg. conversations)

      That part has never been made clear to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 18, 2020 @ 5:42 PM

  2. Meditation is great! I love it. I love yoga breathing slower and relaxing! Medications for seizures inter -twined makes it wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Toni Robison — September 18, 2020 @ 5:48 PM

  3. Breathing is what’s saved my soul. It even helped me to stop smoking! (6 weeks and counting…)


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 18, 2020 @ 5:51 PM

  4. I would guess from on line articles that whether or not meditation itself might affect Epilepsy would depend upon tne type and severity of the epilepsy, and the location in the brain. However, mindfullness as oppsed to mindful meditation whether it is mindfull conversation, mindful eating or mindful focus ought to be at least mildly beneficial for epileptics. In my case mindfullness during an attack has helped to decrease the severity of my partial attacks and even abort others. (my neurologist has told me tnat aborted attacks are still classified as attacks for reporting purposes.). Mindfullness during an attack means “accepting” it and focussing on breathing and the affected limbs. It dies not mean fighting the attack. It is not easy and I would imagine that it might not be possible during a major grand mal attack.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Michael H — September 18, 2020 @ 7:20 PM

    • Michael, how brilliant and challenging. Yes, mindfulness is a tool. But only for those as strong-willed as you.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 18, 2020 @ 9:30 PM

    • I have been able to stop partials through sheer willpower but it’s hard. I wonder what is the mechanism by which this works?

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Hetty Eliot — September 18, 2020 @ 11:25 PM

      • Hetty, I’m not really sure. But I think it’s the sheer power of the focus you put on your seizures and frame of mind. But, I think Michael would probably be better able to answer your question than me.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 19, 2020 @ 12:03 AM

  5. This may sound wierd but in my case with daytime attacks a deep sense (aura) of an impending attack echoes in my head and I automatically remove my glasses, lie on the carpet and hook my right leg over my left leg. My attacks are left sided and are due to the removal of an abscess on the right side of my brain. As the convulsions start in my left arm and leg I press down with my right leg to limit the convulsing movements of my left leg,….because I can feel the vibrations of my left leg in my steady right leg I focus on them and try to “take them over” which is a form of accepting mindfulness for want of a more scientific term. I have always thought of this as “aborting an attack” in reality I think I am decreasing the duration of the attack from about six minutes to three minutes. The duration in minutes is my wife’s estimate I really have no idea even though I do not loose consciousness. Nightime attacks are different becuse I am unaware of any aura and wake up during an attack so cannot position myself appropriately. However, with nighttime attacks I try to focus on my vibrating leg and try to take it over with accepting mindful focus but it is less effective than my procedure for dealing with day time ones. This tecnique of course cannot apply to full blown grand mal attacks which luckily I dont get.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Michael H — September 21, 2020 @ 12:30 AM

  6. If, when you’re meditating, things get the least bit iffy or uncomfortable, STOP immediately. Move slowly, but move. Bring your attention into physical space. I find that putting a hand or a foot on the floor – depending on where and how I’ve been sitting – and putting my attention there will help center me. Then slowly I move my head.

    This is all small stuff. It works. Especially it works if, before I enter the psychic room that meditation offers, I remind myself of where the door is, and how to leave safely.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by HoDo — September 21, 2020 @ 8:27 AM

  7. Brilliant as always, HoDo. Thank you.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 21, 2020 @ 9:28 AM

  8. My problem was, that when I used to get nocturnal seizures, it felt like the inside of my head was going 100 miles an hour.

    I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t think. I could barely stand it and tore at my hair in efforts to make it stop.

    There was no meditation possible there. Just pure fear.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 21, 2020 @ 9:35 AM

    • It’s my understanding that with some attacks, neurons involved in emotions are excited. The person might feel ecstasy or anger or fear. The emotion – fear, for example – then is not a response to the attack, it is *part* of the attack.

      Twice I have had the “ecstasy” version. A number of times there has been fear. What helps me is to think, “I am experiencing fear,” rather than,”I am afraid.” Then it stops being a sort of accusation.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by HoDo — September 24, 2020 @ 7:19 AM

      • HoDo, to be honest, conscious thinking was the last thing on my mind. (Sorry for the pun.)

        I couldn’t act. I could just react. Is that what you mean?


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 24, 2020 @ 9:08 AM

      • I meant that it helps to know, after, that you are not a fearful and therefore less valuable person.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by HoDo — September 24, 2020 @ 10:50 AM

      • Thanks for the clarification HoDo. Your words of wisdom always help.


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 24, 2020 @ 10:58 AM

  9. Another thought: there are many ways to meditate. More and more, meditation teachers are making adaptations for various disabilities. The idea that you have to sit in the lotus position on a special cushion with your eyes closed exactly so much and focused exactly 30” in front of you is outdated.

    Look online, see what you can find. Experiment.

    I find seated meditation difficult. Walking meditation, however, works on most days. I bring my attention back to the feel of my feet in my shoes. That’s all it takes, bringing the attention back to a single place. It’s Good Enough meditation.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by HoDo — September 21, 2020 @ 10:51 AM

  10. I find walking to be a comfort too. Being mindful of the things surrounding me. It takes me to a place of calm.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 21, 2020 @ 10:58 AM

  11. I love HoDo’s concept of “Good enough meditation!” Let me borrow from HoDo and advocate “Good enough mindfulness” which I think is the essence of my approach to daytime attacks. I am “accepting” the attack, and trying to influence it to reduce its severity in much the same way that you can slow down your heart beat modestly, say 10-20 points {systolic} at the doctor’s office before they take your (supposedly resting) blood pressure.
    Being mindful is not the same as mindful meditating but I am trying to avoid semantics in favor of helpful practices.
    And Phylis I agree with your walking in a place of calm but due to back troubles I cycle (recumbent Tricycle) for up to two hours almost every morning,

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Michael H — September 21, 2020 @ 4:06 PM

    • My neurologist told me sternly that I could not stop an attack through will power. However, it is possible to stop my over-the-top reactions to it, adding “This Is Terrible!” to the attack itself. Perhaps it’s mindfulness to say, “Oh, that again,” in the mildest possible way – to surf the wave, so to speak. Though sometimes one gets dunked.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by HoDo — September 21, 2020 @ 4:52 PM

  12. I think mindfulness sometimes does help surf the wave. An awareness that I can ease into this seizure . Your neurologist is wrong, I believe.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by skolly9 — September 22, 2020 @ 10:58 PM

    • If I ever get will power to work on a seizure, I’ll let you know. Most are over too quickly even to gather resources.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by HoDo — September 23, 2020 @ 8:55 AM

  13. I totally agree in meditation! My seizures are so much better! I have taken a class for a year! My mental awareness is better. I am more alert. If I have a problem going to sleep. I have learned simple techniques. I use to be in ER’s once to twice a month. I have not been in one year.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Toni Robison — March 2, 2021 @ 5:34 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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