Low mood, depression and epilepsy

What is low mood?
What is depression?
What are the links between epilepsy and depression?
Where can I get help with low mood and depression?

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.

What is low mood?    

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:

  • Sad
  • Anxious or panicky
  • Worried
  • Tired
  • Frustrated
  • Angry

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.

What is 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

What is the link between epilepsy and depression?

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.

Where can I get help with low mood and depression?

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.

Epilepsy and wellbeing module

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. 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.

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

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.

Talking therapies

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.

Antidepressants

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
Website: mind.org.uk

NHS website - this is the country's biggest health website and 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 problem.
Tel: 0300 5000 927
Website: rethink.org

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

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
Website: samaritans.org

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
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: 
F031.05

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 2019
    To be reviewed November 2022

Comments: read the 2 comments or add yours

Comments

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

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...

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