How to deal with feelings of depression if you have epilepsy
Having epilepsy does not mean you have to expect and cope with depression. You have as much right to help and support as anyone else.
We all feel low and depressed sometimes, without it being a medical problem. Depression becomes a problem when the unhappy feelings don’t go away and it affects our daily life: eating, sleeping or being able to get out of bed.
Depression isn’t just about feeling sad or ‘down’. It’s about losing interest and enjoyment in the things you used to enjoy.
If you’re depressed, you may feel worthless, hopeless, tearful, tired, restless or anxious. You may lose interest in sex, or not care about your appearance. You may not be able to remember, concentrate or make decisions. You may sleep badly or wake up too early. Your appetite or weight may go up or down. You may think that life is not worth living, or think about suicide or death in general.
Depression is common
1 in 5 people in the UK have some form of depression at some point in their lives.
Sometimes depression is triggered by an upsetting or life-changing event, such as bereavement, unemployment, family problems, debt, an accident or an illness. Some people are more likely to become depressed than others because of a family history of depression. Frequent stress (too much pressure) may make depression more likely.
Depression is more likely in someone with epilepsy (see Links between epilepsy and mood) but this does not necessarily mean that one condition has caused the other. Nor does it mean that depression is something you just have to put up with.
Helping yourself – some ideas
- Take plenty of exercise. Exercise stimulates brain chemicals that may improve your mood and it is a good way of getting out and meeting people. Feeling fitter can also help you feel more positive about yourself. If you are tired or depressed you may not feel like being active, but exercise can actually boost energy levels. You are more likely to stick to exercise when you enjoy it and when you notice that it helps you.
- Eat regular, well-balanced meals. This will help increase your energy levels and boost your immune system, which may help you feel positive and reduce the risk of seizures. Cutting down caffeine and sugar may help avoid highs and lows in your energy levels, and in your mood. Diet and nutrition can be an important part of living well with epilepsy.
- Note the times when you feel especially low. Think about what helped you cope last time.
Keep yourself safe, and positive, as best as you can. It helps to have a hobby as well, something therapeutic.
Sources of help
The Royal College of Psychiatrists (opens new window) has information and resources about depression.
It can be hard to imagine yourself asking for help but finding support which works for you is positive and getting treatment can make a big difference.
You can also talk to someone by calling our confidential helpline
Taken from our booklet ‘The Bigger Picture – epilepsy and mood’ which was commended in the BMA Patient Information Awards 2010. The Bigger Picture booklet uses comics to show how people may feel about and deal with their epilepsy.
Order your free copy of The Bigger Picture from our online shop as part of our ‘first five free’ offer or by calling the Helpline on 01494 601 400.
A free, easy-read booklet is also available, called Epilepsy – how I feel.
Epilepsy Society is grateful to the many people with epilepsy who helped produce this information by generously sharing their experiences.