Low 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.
Everybody feels down from time to time and this is quite normal. Low mood is not pleasant to live with. But it’s short-lived. Low mood can be when you feel:
- Anxious or panicky
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 is a low mood that doesn’t go away after a few weeks.
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
People with epilepsy are at a high risk of becoming depressed. And people with depression are at an increased risk of developing epilepsy. Although they are different conditions, it is thought that they might share a common cause.
Some people who had depression before having temporal lobe surgery seem particularly vulnerable to continuing to have 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 suicide can be side-effects of some epilepsy medicines. Side- effects can be worse 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.
A person with epilepsy is 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.
- 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. Also you can find out more about taking control of your epilepsy by taking part in Epilepsy Action’s Epilepsy and you online training course.
Help from other people
Depression can be mild, moderate or severe. Many people with mild depression will get better without any help. If the negative feelings you are having don’t go away, or they are affecting your everyday life, you might need some support. We all need help sometimes. You could get this from a family member, a friend, your family doctor, epilepsy specialist, epilepsy nurse or pharmacist.
These are some of the ways your depression might be helped.
There are various different types of talking therapy that can help with depression. They all involve talking with a therapist. You may be able to see a therapist by yourself, or maybe join a group therapy session.
This is an NHS video about talking therapies.
In England you can refer yourself for psychological therapy without having to see your GP.
Here is a link for the information and online form.
Treatment with anti-depressants may be helpful 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 antidepressant will depend on what epilepsy medicines you are taking and any possible interactions.
St John’s Wort, a herbal antidepressant, 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.
Have a look at this Royal College of Psychiatrist’s video about depression.
If you are feeling that life is too much, you will need help straight away. Seek medical advice or call NHS 111. Or contact the Samaritans on 116 123.
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
NHS website - this is the country's biggest health website and 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 problem.
Tel: 0300 5000 927
Royal College of Psychiatrists – this site provides a detailed patient information leaflet about depression in several languages. Search ‘depression’ from the homepage.
They offer 24 hour confidential emotional support for people who are having feelings of distress or despair, including thinking about suicide.
Tel: 116 123
Saneline - is a 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 June Greenway, Adult Epilepsy Specialist Nurse, Dereham Hospital for reviewing this information.
This information has been produced under the terms of Epilepsy Action's information quality standards.
- Updated November 2019To be reviewed November 2022