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Emotional discomfort and psychological difficulties are common for persons with Epilepsy, they encounter significant negative emotional experiences every day.
Some of these negative emotions are anxiety, fear, resignation, sadness, insecurity, despair and anger. Anxiety is a core emotion that many people experience at certain points in life. It can become a disorder. If it gets out of hand, it can cause a constant feeling of nervousness, distress, and unease for no apparent reason.
Anxiety can be quite significant in the life of a person with epilepsy. In any medical illness, people may become anxious after the diagnosis of their condition. But anxiety is also related to epilepsy in more specific ways. It can occur not only as a reaction to the diagnosis, but also as a symptom of the epilepsy or as a side effect of seizure medicines.
As a reaction to the diagnosis- People often develop anxiety after epilepsy is diagnosed, or after they have their first seizure. One common cause of anxiety in epilepsy is the fear of having a seizure. The knowledge that a seizure can occur at any time and place without very much warning is a major point of anxiety for many people. Some also become anxious about social rejection due to their condition, particularly during adolescence. Social support is therefore an important element in the life of a person with epilepsy.
As a symptom of Epilepsy- Anxiety is not a purely psychological or psychosocial phenomenon. It also can occur as a direct result of neurobiological factors like abnormal brain function and seizures. Some factors that are responsible for seizures may also be responsible for anxiety, which can manifest itself in various ways in epilepsy. For instance, many people report feelings and symptoms of anxiety as part of their “aura.”
Treating anxiety in people with epilepsy
The treatment of anxiety in a person with epilepsy should be based on a thorough investigation. Once a clear picture of the situation has emerged, possible treatments can be examined.
- Some people do well with counseling. Others need more structured psychotherapy to reduce their experiences of anxiety.
- Behavior therapy, a common form of treatment used for anxiety, is based on teaching patients’ specific methods and skills that they can use to reduce anxiety. Behavior therapy for anxiety helps arm the person with tools for self-reliance and self-control.
- In some cases, anti-anxiety medications are used. The danger is that the person may become dependent on the medication. This is more likely to happen to people with epilepsy than to others because some medications that are used to lessen anxiety also suppress seizures. The person can become dependent on the medication and have difficulty stopping it.
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The writer is an Epilepsy Awareness ambassador