Epilepsy Talk

Antidepressants and epilepsy… | May 22, 2022

For a long time, depression has been thought to be a complication of epilepsy.

“People with a history of depression have a 3 to 7 times higher risk of developing epilepsy. This kind of information is forcing us to take a second look at the interaction between depression and epilepsy” said Dr. Andres Kanner, a Professor of Clinical Neurology and Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center of the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine.

Common pathways between depression and epilepsy might account for recent data suggesting that patients with a psychiatric history may not respond as well to medication or surgery for treatment of their seizures, he said.

Dr. Kanner and his colleagues studied 90 patients whose seizures failed to respond to anti-epileptic medication and underwent brain surgery to remove tissue that was the focus of the seizures.

Patients with a lifetime history of depression were less likely to become seizure-free, the researchers found. Kanner said that suggests depression could be a biological marker for a more severe form of epilepsy.

“Patients with epilepsy usually respond well to antidepression medication and with lower doses,” he said.

“There is a lot of misconception that if you use an anti-depressant, it will worsen the seizures. That is not really so.”

Kanner said a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, have proved safe in patients with epilepsy.

They include:


The incidence and prevalence of depression in the epilepsy population is difficult to establish, mainly because of the under-reporting and under diagnosis of depressive symptoms. Additionally, the diverse methodologies and sample populations used across studies yield drastically different study conclusions.

However, depression may have a major impact on the quality of life of patients with epilepsy, sometimes even more than the seizures.

Valproate and Lamictal tend to stabilize mood, for instance, while Lyrica has anti-anxiety effects, reported Dr. Kanner.

“These drugs definitely are being used more and more by psychiatrists to treat patients with a variety of psychiatric disorders, but primarily mood and anxiety disorders,” he noted.

What Are the Types of Antidepressants?

There are several types of antidepressants that improve depression. The major types of antidepressants include:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs work by altering the amount of a chemical in the brain called serotonin.



Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another form of antidepressant medicine that treat depression by increasing availability of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine.


Ixel, Savella

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) primarily affect the levels of two chemical messengers in the brain, norepinephrine and serotonin.

Although these drugs are effective in treating depression, they can have more side-effects than other drugs. So, they typically aren’t the first drugs prescribed.

Examples include:


Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

MAOIs are most effective in people with depression who do not respond to other treatments.

They are also effective for treating other mental illnesses. Substances in certain foods like cheese and aged meats, and certain medications (like decongestants or some cough syrups) can interact dangerously with an MAOI.

Transdermal Selegiline (the EMSAM skin patch)

Although MAOIs work well, they’re not prescribed very often because of the risk of dangerous reactions. They can cause serious interactions with other medications and certain foods. Foods that can negatively react with the MAOIs include aged cheese and aged meats.

People taking this drug must adhere to strict dietary restrictions. For this reason these antidepressants also aren’t usually the first drugs prescribed.

Other medicines may be prescribed in addition to antidepressants, particularly in treatment resistant depression.

Here are examples of medicines that may be used to augment as an add-on to antidepressant treatment:

Anti-psychotic medications like Abilify and Seroquel can be used as an add-on to antidepressant treatment. Symbyax, a combination of the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa and an SSRI (Fluoxetine), are approved for treatment-resistant depression.

Other medications:

Buspropion may be less likely to cause sexual side-effects than other antidepressants.
Remeron is usually taken at bedtime. Side-effects are usually mild and include sleepiness, weight gain, elevated triglycerides, and dizziness.
Trazodone is usually taken with food to reduce chance for stomach upset. Other side-effects include drowsiness, dizziness, constipation, dry mouth, and blurry vision.

Wellbutrin, is associated with a higher risk of seizures and should not be used in people with epilepsy.

Benzodiazepines are very effective in the short-term treatment of anxiety and insomnia, but they should be avoided if possible, because they are among the most habit-forming (addictive) drugs legally available. They include:


These drugs also may temporarily reduce seizure frequency and intensity but, after someone takes the same dose for a period of weeks, the effect on anxiety, insomnia, and seizure control diminishes.

As the original anxiety or seizures return, there is a strong tendency for the patient and doctor to increase the dose, which again briefly reduces troublesome symptoms.

This cycle leads to a buildup of the dose to levels that can cause memory impairment, depression, tiredness, and other problems.

If the dose is then reduced, the real trouble begins: anxiety, insomnia, and seizures become more severe.

Finally, researchers are investigating new drugs to treat seizures and other conditions which may be useful for certain anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety disorder and general anxiety disorder.

Their exact role in the treatment of epilepsy however, is not clear.

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










  1. On 7-11-01 I had what I thought WAS the day everything changed in my life with my brain surgery at the NIH, & life was to begin to start. WRONG !! & especially after my doctors were telling me that I need to go on an ADD that they suggest I take PAXIL for what they confused my JOY of surviving a 10+ hour brain surgery, to an over abundant of ANXIETY & WHATEVER ELSE they labeled my JOY as being, knowing that I knew that God was not going to allow anything to go wrong in those 10+ hours that I was out of it during my surgery. So it was 1 week later taking my Lamictal & PAXIL < THAT I DID NOT NEED & my brain rejected it instantly from day 1. After 3 days I was feeling all SUICIDAL, STRESSED OUT, FELT ANXIOUS, EDGY, FRUSTRATED, NOT A CARE IN THE WORLD THOUGHTS OF ACTIONS OR NO ACTIONS, and I was to take this between my next visit for 3 or 4 months ? NO WAY & that did not happen, as in that 1st week I took myself OFF PAXIL. So in 3 months I go back & I told them how I felt being on PAXIL for the 1st & LAST WEEK I was on the drug. So I hear GO BACK ON THE DRUG AGAIN, & if it all happens again as it did before then go OFF the drug. So I did & REPEATED all I did 3 months before & stopped taking the PAXIL. ALL DOCTORS must go to the ear specialists & PASS ALL HEARING TESTS 1st, 1 time a month as a mandatory rule to keep their practice & license legally available to see 1 or more patients.I never have gone on any ADD's ever since trying that PAXIL, as I always say,, ""THE BRAIN NEVER LIES''' by the ways you are feeling from taking drugs, eating & drinking foods & drinks, to any smell or whatever else that can effect the brain chemistry & HOW it effects the CNS & BODY as a whole to the total health being from BAD TO WORSE, as few drugs, foods or drinks might make you feel good, but HOW is it that you feel good ? MAYBE that is BAD as well, as ADD's can be & usually are deceitful.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by James D — May 22, 2022 @ 10:54 AM

    • Sad when you have to be your doctor and sadder when you have to go through the combination of potentially lethal drugs.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 22, 2022 @ 12:23 PM

  2. I tried Zoloft; Prozac as an antidepressent for Temporal Lobe Epilepsy….then Lamictal as a medication for the epilepsy in the 1990’s before they found out why it was hard to control. So I got a VNS in 1998 which worked for 23 years. The nurse canceled my appt. in 2020 so I could have it recharged – so I had a drop attack in a store in Jan. 2021 – the first one in 23 years. I still have depression but I believe it is because of SAD and usual clouds in the morning ‘cept today. But will still use the light for 45 min. (while reading a book…you don’t stare directly at the light) when clouds and wet weather returns next week.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by leonchavarria — May 22, 2022 @ 1:00 PM

  3. The light stimulator is called: HappyLight made by Verilux . It’s much better than a couple I tried before. I bought it at Walmart a couple of years ago…it was less than $100.00 When this one runs out I’ll just get it from Amazon. I originally used it for 30 min. but more time boost’s my energy. So while it’s still dark at 6:00 a.m. I turn it to an angle and place it about 17-19 inches away from a book…so the light reflects off the white pages and through my eyes. Of course some people might set it at 23 inches….just remember we’re individuals.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by leonchavarria — May 22, 2022 @ 5:49 PM

  4. Excellent review Note … the brand name of the antidepressant Brintellix was changed to Trintellix five years ago to avoid confusion with a blood thinner called Brilinta. Luckily for many types of depression , exercise, meditation, light therapy, CBT or conventional therapy may help. Personally I chose exercise (cycling) and a healthier diet (Modified Mediterranean diet) rather than pharmaceuticals and it worked … for me. However, for some types of depression some people will have to rely on pharmaceuticals.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Michael H — May 22, 2022 @ 6:56 PM

  5. Something I neglected to mention yesterday. Even when I awaken at 6:00 a.m. and it’s bright outside I peek through the venitian blinds and see the cloud cover is so thick not even the sun shines through….so I still keep the HappyLight at an angle but move it up to about 12 inches and keep my eyes on the book that mentions to eat nourishing foods, fruits and vegetables because I have to ingest live enzymes. Like minced fresh parsley a couple times a week, because I have celiac sprue and can’t absorb many vitamins.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by leonchavarria — May 23, 2022 @ 11:58 AM

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 )

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 3,249 other subscribers
    Follow Epilepsy Talk on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: