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:
- Anxiety or panic
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Tel: 116 123
For information about psychological services in your area visit NHS Choices.
Organisations for information and support
Telephone numbers for the UK only
Helps people to take control over their mental health. They offer advice and support.
Tel: 0300 123 3393
NHS choices website
The country's biggest health website gives information you need to make choices about your health.
Rethink Mental Illness
Provides expert, accredited advice and information to everyone affected by mental health problems.
Tel: 0300 5000 927
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Provides a detailed patient information leaflet about depression in several languages. Search ‘depression’ from the homepage.
National out-of-hours telephone helpline, offering emotional support and information for people affected by mental health problems.
Tel: 0300 304 7000
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.
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 2016To be reviewed August 2019