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Mood Disorders in Epilepsy - A Neglected Diagnosis

Posted on November 19, 2019

If you are living with both epilepsy and a mood disorder, you are not alone. The link between seizures and mood disorders such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder is well-established, although poorly understood. According to the Neurology Times, multiple studies estimate that between 20 and 22 percent of people with epilepsy have a mood disorder - about five times the rate of mood disorders in the general population.

One MyEpilepsyTeam member reached out, asking “I just wanted to know. What besides epilepsy do you all deal with? Mine is depression, anxiety, bipolar, anemia, panic attacks, bronchitis, and colitis.” Other members responded, saying they had been diagnosed with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), depression, and anxiety.

A different member, expressing frustration about dealing with seizures in addition to mood disorders, wrote “Ok, screw it. I am tired of the epilepsy, lack of sleep, depression and anxiety. The depression is overwhelming, and being bipolar on top of all of this sucks.”

Several MyEpilepsyTeam members live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in addition to seizures. In some cases, members identify a strong link between the two conditions. There are many types of seizures, and people experience different seizure triggers. Psychogenic seizures are triggered by psychological stress and can be related to PTSD. For some members, knowing their seizures are psychogenic helped them find the right treatment. “I found out my seizures are caused by my PTSD,” wrote one MyEpilepsyTeam member. “It's stress-induced, so I'm seeing a cognitive therapist.”

Other MyEpilepsyTeam members developed PTSD as a result of traumatic seizures. “Doctors got me on Depakote (Divalproex sodium), Valium (Diazepam), and medical marijuana to help with my epilepsy, but from the last seizure I had, I got severe anxiety and PTSD.” Another member described the relationship between PTSD and seizures: “As I understand my situation, I live in fear of the next seizure. When, where, how bad. Even worse anxiety after a simple partial (aura). In my case [that means] a grand mal is soon coming. That's my PTSD.”

Neurologists and researchers are still not sure exactly how mood disorders and epilepsy are related, so it’s not surprising that MyEpilepsyTeam members are left with questions. “Can epilepsy cause bipolar disorder?” wondered one member. Others find it difficult to know where mood disorders stop and seizures start. “I don’t know sometimes if it's a seizure or PTSD,” explained another member. “But I just can’t talk.”

By joining MyEpilepsyTeam, the free social network for those living with epilepsy, you gain emotional support, practical advice, and insights from others like you in a judgement-free space. Mood disorders are a frequent topic of conversation among members on MyEpilepsyTeam.

Here are some conversations between MyEpilepsyTeam members living with both mood disorders and epilepsy:

Here are some question-and-answer threads about being diagnosed with epilepsy and mood disorders:

Can you relate? Have you been diagnosed with a mood disorder as well as epilepsy? Share your thoughts below or join and post on MyEpilepsyTeam.

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