Epilepsy Talk

Suicide and epilepsy… | June 14, 2022

We are in a mental health crisis in this community. And not enough is being done to avert it.

According to a peer-reviewed journal article from Epilepsy and Behavior, statistics concluded that people with epilepsy are 22 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

And a 29-fold increase in suicide risk was seen in newly diagnosed patients with a history of psychiatric illness.

“Newly diagnosed patients often have many misconceptions about the disease,” researcher Per Sidenius, MD, of Aarhus University says. “They often don’t understand that there are good treatments with few side effects.”

Researchers from Columbia University also reported an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in patients who later developed epilepsy.

Among the risk factors contributing to suicidal behavior are surgery (suicide tendency is five times higher than patients taking AEDs), absence of seizures for a long time, especially after being very frequent, and psychiatric conditions such as major depression, anxiety-depression disorders, personality disorders, and substance abuse.

A history of depression increased the risk of epilepsy, but the startling finding was that people with epilepsy were 4 times more likely to have attempted suicide before ever having a seizure, even after other factors were taken into account like drinking alcohol, having depression, age, and gender.

“There is an underlying joint susceptibility to suicide attempts and epilepsy, and it can’t be ignored, because epilepsy in general is more than just seizures,” Dr. Dale Hesdorffer of Columbia University in New York City, told Reuters Health in a telephone interview.

It’s a life or death issue

“Increasingly, clinicians treating people with epilepsy ask about current depression, but they may not ask about past suicide attempt or suicidal thoughts,” said Hesdorffer. “Our results may alert clinicians to the need to ask this question and offer any needed counseling.”

Researcher Dr Jakob Christensen said: “There may be a number of factors that have a major impact on the wellbeing of people with chronic disorders such as epilepsy.”

“We know that epilepsy lowers the overall quality of life of the affected individuals — especially shortly after the diagnosis is given.

“An epilepsy diagnosis affects important parts of people’s lives: job opportunities disappear, patients usually lose their driver’s license, drug treatment may decrease fertility, and pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of congenital malformations of the newborn child.

“The latter may be part of the explanation of why the impact of epilepsy with regard to suicide seems greatest in women.”

In fact, women with epilepsy and a history of psychiatric disease were 23 times more likely to commit suicide than women without either condition, compared with a tenfold increase in risk among men with epilepsy and psychiatric illness.

Medication and the mind

Also, a study, appearing in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, has determined that some epilepsy drugs increase the risk for suicide.

People using newer drugs with a higher risk of causing depression such as Keppra, Topamax and Sabril, were three times more likely to harm themselves or attempt suicide than those who were not currently taking any epilepsy drugs.

In contrast, some new drugs have a low risk of causing depression and conventional epilepsy drugs didn’t have any increased risk of self-harm or suicidal behavior.

These groups include drugs such as Lamictal, Neurontin, Tegretol, Depakote and Dilantin.

Since depression reigns supreme, people with both epilepsy and a psychiatric illness were nearly 14 times more likely to commit suicide than people with neither condition.

“Psychological problems, including suicidal thoughts and behaviors, are often not addressed by neurologists who treat epilepsy patients,” Dr. Hesdorffer told Reuters Health. “Many are not comfortable with talking about psychiatric disorders and with talking about suicide attempts.”

“One way to improve management of epilepsy would be for neurologists and psychiatrists to work together to treat patients, which is beginning to happen,” she added. “That will be a fantastic partnership if it continues to develop. It’s at its very early stages now.”

“Physicians, treating patients with epilepsy need to develop collaborations with mental health professionals in order to provide comprehensive treatment to their epilepsy patients.”

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  1. A lot or suicides are people who suffer with depression ( lost a few mates to the lying bitch ) they can’t see a way out ‘ we ‘ have no way out maybe we feel lucky when. ‘It’ gives ‘ us ‘ a day off

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Leonard — June 14, 2022 @ 4:09 PM

    • Leonard, I felt hopeless and helpless. Not because of epilepsy but my life. All around me, things were terrible. I couldn’t see a viable way out.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 14, 2022 @ 5:23 PM

  2. I believe any drug that is to be for treating seizures, when your brain before it is 21 years old is not developed, & totally of a full grown brain chemistry, these drugs will make you depressed & SLOW in reactions & thinking, especially if you are not a teenager. Phenobarbital, Dilantin & Meberal were my 1st 3 drugs I started with at 7 months old, plus my mom told me later that I was put on Ritalin & that never relaxed me when in 5th grade I remember taking it before leaving for school. Today now 50 years later, the drug XCOPRI was suggested to me 8 months ago, when I was not 100% confident then or brainwashed to think that a RNS was going to help me. 10 years ago I told a neurologist at the UVA in Charlottesville Va, this to him. I need a drug or any type of a supplement, that will control my glutamate level in my brain better so that the GABA level in my brain can increase & make my brain more calm, so that nothing I eat or drink will trigger or spark the fire that starts the focal to GRAND MAL seizure to happen. He said to me,, IF YOU THINK THAT WILL HAPPEN IN YOUR LIFETIME YOU HAVE LEFT, YOU ARE LIVING IN A FANTASY WORLD. So I asked him,, You think I have not lived in a fantasy world for over 52 years now, taking all the drugs I have been taking since 7 months old ? His lips was then MUTE & had no answer for that, and now later this EXCOPRI after 7 months, seems to be doing what I said I needed over 10 years ago. But they say this EXCORPI is only for adults & no kids or teens can take it. So 60 years ago IF this drug was made then, I guess I could never take 1/4 of a gram like I had to take of phenobarbital. Kids & parents are getting lied to today if you ask me, as kids would want this drug today if they knew no seizures would be the result of taking XCOPRI.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by James D — June 14, 2022 @ 7:31 PM

  3. I had to leave my first career as a teacher as I developed tonic clonic seizures, had one in a classroom, and the parents were all down the next day demanding that I go, I knocked around for a few years, went back to university, got a new degree in business management, but the hate, the ignorance, the insults, in the UK we now call it hate crime and can be brought to court, after a few years I was into suicide, I didn’t have any income, no job, no future, living out of my parent’s pockets

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Gail Barry — June 15, 2022 @ 3:06 AM

  4. To say anyone who has epilepsy or a neurological disorder and being followed by a neurologist and a good psychiatrist or neuropsychologist is something this group has already been talking about for years I know I have that on my neuro team. But I also have migraines and the articles didn’t mention that. A real bad episode of those could leave you in that depression tunnel digging your way up and you better hope you know how to do it too. This is serious stuff and I’m finding there are still far too many people in this world who not only don’t understand what we go thru with this but they have no empathy or compassion as well. Anyone, like my boss, who can laugh in my face when I’m in pain in disbelief because I have to go home is no one I care to be around anyway. But I do until I find something else. He’s despicable! It’s most definitely a form of bullying and now I simply ignore him.
    I’m lucky I’ve had good training to recognize the depression and awful feelings but even with that it is still hard to deal with. I always contact my support when I need her and it’s the best thing I can do for me. Don’t hesitate you are truly standing up for yourself💜

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Janet R. — June 18, 2022 @ 1:08 AM

    • Janet, you may be interested in the article “The Misery of Migraines.”

      Not that it makes your harassment any better. Playing with your head and emotions can be one of the most painful signs of ignorance.

      You might call this a psychological crime of hate.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 18, 2022 @ 9:47 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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