Researchers from the US reviewed 21 studies published since the 1980s looking into stress and seizures. These studies covered a variety of aspects of stress and epilepsy. They looked at people’s self-reported stress levels, as well as tracking populations who have experienced stressful events such as wars, trauma or natural disasters.
The link between stress and seizures is not new, the review authors explained. However, the mechanism by which stress can cause an increase in seizures is not clear. All the studies the reviewers looked at found an increase in seizure risk during stressful times.
Dr Heather McKee, assistant professor in the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine, was one of the authors of the review. She explained that stress is an emotional strain which is very individual and particular to each person. While the link with seizure risk is clear, she said it is hard to establish why stress has this effect.
The researchers also noted that anxiety played a part in people who said stress was a seizure trigger. The review authors suggested that people should be screened for anxiety if stress is a trigger for their epilepsy.
According to the review, published in the journal Seizure, stress-management techniques have shown some promise in reducing seizure frequency. These methods include deep breathing, relaxation techniques and exercise. However, more and larger trials are needed.
There is more information on stress and epilepsy on the Epilepsy Action website.
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