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Low mood, depression and epilepsy

Epilepsy and wellbeing moduleLow mood and depression share some of the same signs and symptoms. They can have an impact on your epilepsy. And epilepsy can affect your mood too.

What is low mood?

Everybody feels down from time to time and this is quite normal. Low mood is not pleasant to live with. It can cause you to have feelings such as:

  • Sadness
  • Anxiety or panic
  • Worry
  • Tiredness
  • Frustration
  • Anger

How is low mood treated?

Making some small changes in your life, such as solving a difficult situation, talking to someone about your problems, or getting more sleep can help to improve your mood.

Usually, low mood will tend to lift within a few days or weeks. If it lasts longer than that, and is affecting your day to day life, it could be that it has turned into depression.

About depression

Around 1 in every 6 people in the UK will have depression. If you have epilepsy, your chance is around 1 in 3.

Depression affects people in different ways but you might:

  • Feel sad or low for long periods of time
  • Feel hopeless or helpless
  • Feel guilty
  • Feel anxious or worried
  • Feel irritable
  • Feel tired all the time, with no energy
  • Sleep more or less than usual
  • Have no motivation or be unable to concentrate
  • Lose interest in things you normally enjoy
  • Lose interest in sex
  • Eat more or less than usual
  • Think about harming yourself or suicide

Are there any links between epilepsy and depression?

People with epilepsy are at a high risk of becoming depressed. And people with depression are at high risk of developing epilepsy. Although they are different conditions, it is thought that they might share a common cause.

It’s also interesting that some people who had depression before having temporal lobe surgery seem particularly vulnerable to depression and continuing seizures afterwards. The people who had epilepsy without a history of depression were more likely to become seizure free after surgery.

Depression and thoughts of self-harm can be side-effects of some epilepsy medicines. This is particularly so if they are started at too high a dose, or the dose is increased too quickly. If you start having new symptoms after taking your epilepsy medicines, speak to your family doctor.

What is the treatment for depression?

Depression can be mild, moderate or severe.  Many people with mild depression will get better without any help. But some people will need some help, depending on how seriously their depression is affecting them. These are some of the ways your depression might be helped.

Self-help

  • To avoid feeling isolated, stay connected to the people you care about
  • Try to talk to people you trust about how you feel
  • Try to have a regular good night’s sleep
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Try not to drink too much alcohol
  • Try to get as much exercise as you can. Exercise releases chemicals called endorphins into your body. These are natural antidepressants

Epilepsy Action has an epilepsy and wellbeing online course you might like to try. Epilepsy Action also runs coffee and chat groups across the UK. They enabled you to meet new people, share experiences and learn more about life with epilepsy in a relaxed and comfortable environment.

You can find more information about self-help treatments on the NHS website and NICE websites.

Talking therapies

There are various different types of talking therapy that can help with depression. They all involve talking with a therapist. Some people will see a therapist by themselves, and some will join a group therapy session.

This is an NHS video about talking therapies.

Antidepressants

Treatment with anti-depressant medicines should be considered for people with epilepsy and depression. These work by increasing the activity and levels of certain chemicals in the brain that help to lift a person’s mood. The choice of anti-depressant medicine will depend on what epilepsy medicines you are taking and any possible interactions.

St John’s Wort can interact with some epilepsy medicines, so people with epilepsy shouldn’t use it.

For some people, a combination of self-help, talking therapies and medicine is the most effective way of treating depression.

See this Royal College of Psychiatrist’s video about depression.

Coming to terms with epilepsy and depression

You are more likely to develop conditions like depression than someone who doesn’t have epilepsy. But, treatment can help. And trying to look after your emotional health and wellbeing can be a help too.

Our bodies and minds are connected. Being diagnosed and living with epilepsy can affect how we feel emotionally. And how we feel emotionally can affect the way we cope with our day-to-day lives.

You can find out more about taking control of your epilepsy by taking part in Epilepsy Action’s epilepsy and you online training course.

Who can help?

We all need help sometimes. If the negative feelings you are having don’t go away, or they are affecting your everyday life, you might need some support. You could get this from a family member, a friend, your family doctor, epilepsy specialist or epilepsy nurse.

If you are feeling that life is too much, you will need help straight away.

Seek medical advice or call NHS 111.

You can also contact the Samaritans. They offer 24 hour confidential emotional support for people who are having feelings of distress or despair, including thinking about suicide.

The Samaritans
Tel: 116 123
Website: samaritans.org

For information about psychological services in your area visit NHS Choices.

Organisations for information and support

Telephone numbers for the UK only

Mind
Helps people to take control over their mental health. They offer advice and support.
Tel: 0300 123 3393
Website: mind.org.uk

NHS choices website
The country's biggest health website gives information you need to make choices about your health.
Website: nhs.uk

Rethink Mental Illness
Provides expert, accredited advice and information to everyone affected by mental health problems.
Tel: 0300 5000 927
Website: rethink.org

Royal College of Psychiatrists
Provides a detailed patient information leaflet about depression in several languages. Search ‘depression’ from the homepage.
Website: rcpsych.ac.uk

Saneline
National out-of-hours telephone helpline, offering emotional support and information for people affected by mental health problems.
Tel: 0300 304 7000
Website: sane.org.uk

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone on 0808 800 5050.

Code: 
F031.04

Epilepsy Action would like to thank Professor Michael Kerr, Clinical Professor, Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences Cardiff for contributing to and reviewing this information.

Professor Kerr has declared no conflict of interest.

This information has been produced under the terms of Epilepsy Action's information quality standards.

  • Updated August 2016
    To be reviewed August 2019

Comments: read the 9 comments or add yours

Comments

Thanks for the helpful article about depression,I am depressed a lot because of problems,I don't know to explain hoe it feels,now I am happy without depression,keep creating awareness about depression.

Submitted by Abdul Aziz on

All you need to do is fighting with it and I believe in you. I had some problems with anxiety several years ago. I worried about everything and can`t say I was happy because of that. My best friend sent me some articles from Vapingdaily and wikihow. I understood I had to do something.
My best friend spent with me a lot of time and helped with everything I needed. I think the best way to deal with it is to find a real friend.

Submitted by Roberto on

I have absences daily and am currently crossing over from keppra to epilim as over the past 2 years or so since I was diagnosed my absences have become more and more frequent even on higher doses of meds, but lately I have moved home, don't live near any of my friends and girlfriend so social life has deteriorated somewhat, and I am also waiting on doctor's appointments I think that has me down quite a bit. However, really the problem is first thing in the morning when I wake up I get huge waves of depression/anxiety/fear coming over me. I feel them coming on like a headrush or cold chill and I don't know how to combat them. They come and go for an hour or so while I'm sleepy.
I usually get a good night's sleep and eat well, exercise plenty.

Submitted by Brian on

Hi Brian,

I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been having such a difficult time. Living with epilepsy and being away from the people you’re close to can be hard, and it could really affect mood.  

It sounds like you’re already following some of our self-help tips. We also have information on other things that can help, such as talking therapies, on our webpage about low mood.  And you might find our webpages on stress and general wellbeing helpful as well.

Sometimes it can be a good to talk to someone about things. If you’re feeling low it’s a good idea to keep in touch with your doctor or your epilepsy nurse. If it feels possible, you could speak to them about how you’ve been feeling and what help or support they can offer. If you don’t think you can do this, or you need to talk to someone urgently, remember you can call The Samaritans on 116 123 at any time.

As you’re still having seizures, I’d like to check you’re seeing an epilepsy specialist? You mention you’re waiting for a doctor’s appointment but it’s not clear if this is your GP or an epilepsy specialist. An epilepsy specialist can review your treatment and look at other possible reasons for why your seizures are still happening. They may suggest trying a different epilepsy medicine.  If you’ve tried various types of epilepsy medicines, it may be the specialist could look into other treatment options for you. If you’re not under a specialist, you will need to ask your GP to refer you.

If you think if could be helpful to talk to us or you want any more information you can call our freephone helpline number 0808 800 5050. We are open Monday-Friday 8.30am-5.30pm.

Regards

Jessica

Epilepsy Action Helpline

Submitted by rich on

I'm recently moving from 200mg tegretol twice daily and 500mg Levetiracetam twice daily to 1000mg Levetiracetam twice daily and although I'm altering the dose as prescribed as the neurologist has said my moods have changed dramatically. I'm crying daily and I'm feeling so low I've come down with a cold in July. I'm going to see the GP today but I'm changing medication so I can start a family so I'm worried if they want to change the dose what will happen. I feel like I have to stay on this dose but what if my moods stay like this I have to go to work. Will the side effects stop? Or if they drop the dose I don't want to start getting seizures again.

Submitted by Emily on

Hi

That is such a lot of difficult things to juggle.

Some people can take a while to get to the right dose of the right epilepsy medicine. And some people have to move up doses of medicine particularly slowly in order not to have too many side-effects.

It may be that increasing the dose more slowly will make the levetiracetam more tolerable for you, if that’s what the doctor suggests.

But it may also be that levetiracetam is not the right medicine for you. Seizure control is not the only thing that controls your quality of life is it. Feeling this low must be really difficult for you. And although there are a number of different possible reasons as to why a person with epilepsy might feel low, there is a strong possibility that levetiracetam could be part of this for you. This would especially be the case if you were not feeling this depressed before you started taking it.

The neurologist will want to work with you to get the best seizure control on the best epilepsy medicine for you wanting to start a family and with the fewest side effects. And sometimes that process can take some time. But it will be really good for you to keep talking to the doctor and letting them know if things are difficult. Hopefully soon you will reach a place where you have got the best arrangement for moving forward. I do hope so.

Regards 

Cherry  

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

Helpful article, depression is a mental illness where it will create some negative thoughts and take control of mind, this article helping me to gain some knowledge, keep sharing with us.

Submitted by Harish Kumar on

I’ve had epilepsy for the past 60 years or so and am currently taking Vimpat 200mg (2X), Zonegran 100mg (5X) and Fycompa 10mg (1X). Last December a nearly 40 year old memory of how I was molested several times started coming up so often that I would break down crying, no matter where I was. Previously, it had taken me 20 years before I was finally able to put the memory away or if it did come up, then at least no longer cry about it. My Humana nurse, and later my therapist referred to it as a PTSD event, something that will probably never go away for good, but I just couldn’t believe it was causing me so much grief again. Since then I’ve had these feelings, not so much of depression but of a sense of worthlessness. I don’t think anybody ever notices it because it really makes me a humble person, willing to let the other guy go first. I think though, that I’m that way because I don’t feel worthy to be the first so you, go ahead, I’ll just tag along – something like that.
It suddenly dawned on me when I was thinking on things, trying to figure out why my life has turned like this, that up till October, 2018, my Fycompa dosage was 8mg which basically gave me these anger issues – but only at myself – I drop a pencil and swear and call myself names for being so clumsy. Otherwise things were fine. Then, last October, my neurologist increased the dosage of to 10mg, and then it was 2 months later when all hell broke loose.

My question to you is what can I do to fight off these feelings that arise – esp. if they are caused by what I have now believed have been the culprit all along?

My limitations:
My bank account
I do not drive
I am the last of my family out here
I am living out in the boondocks with no mass transit, the nearest town or city area being 10 miles away
Any friends I may have live in the city areas and are mostly buddies, not friends.

10 years ago I would walk up the hill and talk to my mom or dad if I felt things begin to overwhelm me; when I lived in NYC, I went out and walked up and down the streets and window-shopped to take my mind off things. Now all I do is sit and watch TV or sit at the computer.

Submitted by Jeffrey Carlton on

Dear Jeffery 

It sounds like you are having some difficult times. And something you may wish to seek medical help with.

As we are not a medical organistion we are unable to explain what it is you are experiencing. But we can give you information on possible psychiatric disorders side effects listed for Fycompa

We have taken this information for the patient information sheet:

aggression

anger

anxiety

confusional state

suicidal ideation

suicide attempt

If your doctor thinks your symptoms are side-effects of your medicine, they might make changes to your treatment to see if this reduces your symptoms. .

For local support and information, if you haven’t already you may wish to contact the Epilepsy Foundation of America. The Epilepsy Foundation is a national non-profit organisation with more than 50 local organisations throughout the United States.

Regards

Diane

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Diane - Epileps... on

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