Each year, depression affects one in five Americans overall. Add in a chronic health condition such as epilepsy, and the risk of depression rises. In fact, almost half of all people with epilepsy will suffer from depression at some point in their life.

Understanding depression

The possibility of depression should be considered if you suffer negative feelings that last for two weeks or longer.

Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Guilt, anxiety or irritability
  • A lack of motivation
  • Feeling tired
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • A loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
  • Wanting to hurt yourself or thinking about suicide

Depression often runs in families, or it may be triggered by a particular experience, such as a major life change, loss, financial problems — or an illness like epilepsy.

Why epilepsy may increase your risk of depression

There are a variety of reasons that epilepsy can increase the risk of depression:

  • You may have constant anxiety about seizures
  • The area of your brain that triggers a seizure may be the same part of the brain that alters mood
  • It may be a side effect of your anti-seizure medication
  • You may worry about the social stigma of epilepsy
  • Your seizures may result in loss of independence, or you might have to give up activities you love

Whatever leads to your depression, the most important things to know are that it’s not your fault and there are things we can do to improve your mental health.

  • We can change or adjust your epilepsy medication.
  • Our mental health experts can provide counseling or help you learn coping and behavior-modification skills.
  • If necessary, we can also prescribe anti-depression medication and monitor any interaction with your epilepsy treatment.

Depression is treatable. Don’t wait to ask for help. Learn more about mental health resources at Ohio State.

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