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Some health issues to watch out for

Some health issues to watch out for

Feeling anxious, depressed or stressed can affect anyone. You have a higher risk of being affected by them when you have epilepsy. How long they affect you for and how you deal with them can have a huge impact on your overall wellbeing.

Here’s some information about signs to look out for and how you can manage them.

Anxiety and depression

About anxiety
Anxiety affects everybody at some time or other. It’s the feeling of fear that we get when faced with threatening or difficult situations. Anxiety can help us to avoid danger. It makes us more alert and gives us energy to deal with problems. However, if the anxiety is too strong or is there all the time, then it can become a problem.

Some symptoms of feeling anxious

  • Feeling fearful and tense
  • A fast heart rate
  • Palpitations
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • A dry mouth
  • Chest pains
  • Headaches
  • Fast breathing
  • Problems with memory
  • Problems with concentration
  • Feeling sick

Signs that anxiety is becoming a problem

  • Your anxiety is out of proportion to the stressful situation
  • You continue feeling anxious when a stressful situation has gone, or the stress is minor
  • You feel anxious for no apparent reason, when there is no stressful situation

About depression
Everybody feels down from time to time and this is quite normal. If you have been feeling low for a long time, and this is affecting your daily life, you may be experiencing depression.

Depression affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms. At its mildest, you may feel persistently low in spirit. At its most severe, depression can make you feel suicidal and that life is no longer worth living.

Some signs that you may have depression 

  • Having difficulty sleeping, or sleeping more than usual
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Feeling unhappy most of the time
  • Avoiding other people
  • Finding it hard to concentrate or make decisions
  • Losing interest in sex
  • Feeling tired, restless or agitated
  • Having physical aches and pains that have no obvious cause
  • Losing your appetite
  • Having suicidal thoughts
  • Losing confidence
  • Having memory problems

Epilepsy Action has more information about depression.

Links between epilepsy, anxiety and depression

When you have epilepsy, here are some reasons why you could be more at risk of anxiety or depression than other people.

  • Coming to terms with a new diagnosis can be very difficult
  • Sometimes the physical changes in your brain immediately after a seizure can cause anxiety
  • Your seizures might cause injuries that make you feel anxious or depressed
  • If there is something in your brain which is causing your seizures, this could also cause anxiety or depression (for example, tumours or infections in the temporal lobes)
  • Your epilepsy medicine might cause anxiety or depression as a side-effect
  • Your epilepsy medicine might cause other side-effects, which also cause you to feel anxious or depressed
  • You might find it difficult to adjust to the changes in your life, such as losing your driving licence
  • You might feel that family and friends treat you differently

Managing anxiety and depression
Just because you have epilepsy, you shouldn’t expect to have anxiety or depression. But if anxiety is becoming a problem in your day-to-day life, or you think you might be depressed, it’s important to get help from your family doctor. The sooner you seek help, the better.

The kind of treatment your family doctor will suggest will depend on how the anxiety or depression is affecting you. Some people take anti-depressant tablets. Other people have therapy that involves talking about how they are feeling. Some people have both treatments.

If you have severe depression, your family doctor might refer you to a mental health team. This can include psychologists, psychiatrists, specialist nurses and occupational therapists. These teams often provide intensive specialist talking treatments as well as prescribe medicine.

Here are some things you can do yourself to manage anxiety and depression.

  • Talk to a family member or a friend you trust about how you are feeling - just doing this can help you to feel some relief
  • Join Epilepsy Action’s on-line community, forum4e. You can share how you are feeling with other people with epilepsy and recognise that you are not alone
  • Learn about mindfulness – becoming aware of your present experience, your thoughts and feelings, without judging or trying to change them
  • If you are feeling very depressed or suicidal, speak to your doctor urgently. You can also call the Samaritans at any time. There is always a trained person available who will listen to you and explore your problems.
    Samaritans
    Tel: 08457 90 90 90
    Website: samaritans.org

Stress

Stress is a natural part of life. It can be described as the way you feel when you are under pressure. Stress helps us cope with the challenges of daily life. This could be pressure from your job, a relationship or any number of things.  A small amount of stress can help us to deal with things going on around us. However, too much stress, or stress which goes on for too long, can have harmful effects on us, both physically and emotionally.

Some common signs of stress

Physical signs

  • Having difficulty sleeping or waking early and being unable to get back to sleep
  • Having indigestion, constipation or diarrhoea
  • Nail biting
  • Having nervous twitches
  • Feeling restless and unable to settle
  • Feeling tired

Emotional signs

  • Feeling easily irritated or angry
  • Feeling very sensitive to criticism, or taking things very personally
  • Drinking increased amounts of alcohol or smoking more
  • Lacking concentration
  • Feeling very emotional

When you have epilepsy, there are reasons why you’re more at risk of stress than other people. Living with epilepsy can be frustrating and it can sometimes restrict you from doing things want to. For example, losing your driving licence can be stressful. And seizures themselves can be stressful events.

Many people with epilepsy say that if they are feeling stressed, they’re more likely to have a seizure. Sometimes, feeling stressed can lead to other behaviour, such as changing sleeping or eating habits, drinking more alcohol, and feeling anxious or depressed. All of these can also increase your risk of having a seizure.

Just because you have epilepsy, you shouldn’t expect to feel more stressed than other people. But if you are feeling stressed, it’s important that you know when to seek help, and where to go for it. There are lots of things that can help you.

Managing stress
Here are some tips for reducing your stress levels.

  • Make time for relaxation and the things you enjoy
  • Do some exercise - even a short visit to the shops can help
  • Aim to get enough sleep
  • Learn about mindfulness – becoming aware of your present experience, your thoughts and feelings, without judging or trying to change them
  • Share your feelings and ask for support (from family, friends, your doctor or a counsellor)
  • Ask your family doctor if you can have any talking therapy

Epilepsy Action has more information about stress.

Memory problems

Everybody experiences problems with their memory from time-to-time. They can happen when we are under stress, trying to concentrate on a number of things at once, feeling unwell or feeling tired. Also, as we get older, lapses in memory can become more common.

Finding it hard to remember things seems to be a common problem when you have epilepsy. Your memory can sometimes be affected by seizures, some epilepsy medicines and by any damage to the brain that has caused the epilepsy.

Memory problems can have a big impact on your everyday life.They can affect work or education, or your ability to cope with everyday living. They can also have an impact on relationships. These problems can affect your wellbeing, by making you feel embarrassed, stressed, anxious or depressed.

Managing memory problems

If you are having problems with your memory here are some things you can do to help yourself.

Follow a set routine
Make things easier for yourself, and your memory, by following a set daily routine. If you know what to expect each day, your memory doesn’t have to work as hard.

You can also do certain daily tasks together, such as always taking your medicine after your meals.

Adapt your surroundings
Make changes to your surroundings, and put simple systems in place, so that you don’t need to rely on your memory as much. Here are some ways you can do this.

  • Always put items such as keys and glasses in the same place
  • Label cupboards to remind you what goes in them
  • Label cupboards to remind you what goes in them

Use memory aids
There are lots of different ways you can record things that you have learnt or things that you have done. This can make it easier for you to remember them in the future. Here are examples, but you may be able to think of many more.

  • Smart phones
  • Electronic tablets
  • Diaries and calendars
  • Tape recorders and Dictaphones
  • Notebooks    
  • Photos and videos

There are also aids to help you remember things you need to do in the future.

  • Diaries and calendars
  • Alarm clocks and timers
  • Pill reminder boxes
  • Mobile phones with alarms  
  • Wall charts and wipe clean memo boards

Look after your general wellbeing
Memory problems are often worse when we are feeling stressed, unwell or tired. So taking care of yourself, and aiming to get enough sleep, may help your memory to perform better.

Talk to your doctor
If you are feeling anxious or depressed, speak to your doctor. Many people find that their memory problems improve when their anxiety and depression is treated.

If your memory problems continue, talk to your epilepsy specialist. They can consider if the problems are connected to your epilepsy, the cause of your epilepsy or your epilepsy medicine. They can then look for ways to help you.

Epilepsy Action has more information about epilepsy and memory.

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. See Wellbeing and epilepsy.

Code: 
B154.01

Epilepsy Action would like to thank Professor Markus Reuber, Professor of Clinical Neurology at theUniversityofSheffieldand Honorary Consultant Neurologist at the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for his help in producing this information.

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated December 2013
    To be reviewed December 2016

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