Getting mental health support

Living with epilepsy can have a big impact on your everyday life. Not only does it affect your body, it can also affect your mood and how you feel about yourself.

Talking therapies may help if you are struggling with your mental health.

A woman having a session with a counsellor

How could talking therapies help with epilepsy?

Mental health problems like anxiety and depression are common in people with epilepsy. This can affect general wellbeing and may worsen your epilepsy too. Psychological or ‘talking’ therapies may help to improve mental health if you have epilepsy. It’s possible they may also help you to manage your epilepsy better.

Some types of therapy are focused on listening and helping you to work through your problems. Others are about developing your skills in coping with difficult situations.

What types of talking therapies are there?

Below we list some examples of psychological therapies that may be helpful if you have epilepsy. But many others are also available. You may be offered therapy sessions on your own or in a group. These might be face-to-face, over the phone, or online. There are also online courses available for different types of therapy.

Not all psychological therapies are suitable for everyone, so talk to your GP or specialist about which one might work best for you. You may find that therapy brings up some difficult feelings. Talk to the therapist if this affects you.

At the end of the page, we explain how to access mental health services, and provide some links to help you find a therapist.

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Counselling

Counselling allows you to talk about your problems and feelings privately. A trained counsellor listens to you and can help you find ways to manage any difficulties you’re having.

 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT can help you to manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It helps you to understand the links between your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. This can help you to manage your problems in a more positive way.

Some studies have shown that CBT may improve wellbeing in people with epilepsy. However, its effect on depression and anxiety symptoms tend to be small, and not everyone with epilepsy finds it helpful. It’s still usually the first type of talking therapy you’ll be offered if you have epilepsy and mild symptoms of depression. Talk to your therapist about the risks and benefits of the therapy, and let them know if you don’t feel it’s working for you.

 

Mindfulness-based therapies

Mindfulness is a type of CBT. It is about paying attention to the present moment. It involves being aware of your thoughts, feelings and body sensations, and calmly accepting them.

Mindfulness-based therapies include Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which combines elements of mindfulness with CBT. They can include techniques such as meditation, breathing and yoga to try and break negative thought patterns.

Research suggests mindfulness therapy may be helpful for people with depression and epilepsy. But more research is needed in larger groups of people with epilepsy to confirm how well it works.

 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a different form of CBT that aims to help you accept negative feelings or challenges you have. This could be about living with seizures or lifestyle changes as a result of having epilepsy. There is some research that it may be helpful in improving wellbeing for people with epilepsy.

Accessing mental health services

Your doctor should ask about your mental health when you’re first diagnosed with epilepsy, and at your review appointments. They may use screening questionnaires to assess you. You can also contact your GP or specialist doctor if you have symptoms of depression or anxiety, and you are not due a check-up.

If you are having problems with mental health and need some support, your GP or specialist may arrange for you to have therapy. This will usually be a CBT-based therapy. Whether or not you can have mindfulness-based therapy or ACT through the NHS will depend on if it is offered in your area.

In some areas of England it may be possible to refer yourself to an NHS talking therapies service without asking your GP or specialist. Ideally, it’s best to see someone who has knowledge of mental health problems in people with epilepsy. But this isn’t always possible.

You can also pay for a private counsellor or therapist. Use the links below to find a qualified mental health professional. You can often search for a therapist offering specific types of therapy, such as CBT, mindfulness or ACT.

Where to find mental health support

Some examples of places to look for mental health services and trained practitioners are listed below.

This information has been produced under the terms of the PIF TICK. The PIF TICK is the UK-wide Quality Mark for Health Information. Please contact website@epilepsy.org.uk if you would like a reference list for this information.
Published: August 2019
Last modified: April 2024
To be reviewed: March 2027
Tracking: L032.06 (previously B154)
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