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Do you think prolongued, untreated depression can cause epilepsy?

Hi guys. I had my first grand mal about 3 months ago, followed by nothing - until about a week ago, when I had 2 grand mals in my sleep within 24 hours. A diagnosis hasn't really been yet, but the doctor has put me on 800mg of Epilim.

 My title might startle you, I have researched a lot about Epilepsy since all this has happened to me and I am very well aware of the fact that they say depression cannot cause epilepsy...but then again, I'm also aware of the fact that this disorder has been around for thousands of years and they basically know next to nothing about it.

I am not here to cry myself a river or to seek sympathy, simply answers. I had a very very tough childhood, basically having to deal with a psychopath of a father who was very mentally, emotionally and physically abusive (mostly to mother the physical part). But you learn to "deal" with things like that, or rather just get on with your life. In fact, I've usually been a very happy and bubbly person which I'm very greatful for because most other people in my situation would probably become very suicidal. For the past couple of years or so however, I have slowly been spiraling started with some horrific bullying in my last years of high school which led me to have no friends and subsequently no self esteem and no social life (especially since my mother was very protective of me and my "education" and never let me go out).

So back to the epilepsy part. In the few months before my first seizure I had been SO stressed and anxious, even more so than normal (this is grossly underexaggerated), mainly due to boyfriend issues, and self esteem issues (I only realise these now mind you). In fact last year I suffered my first anxiety attacks because of fights with my boyfriend and stress from uni.

 I am seriously considering the fact that I did this (epilepsy) to myself. This doesn't just happen to normal, healthy people. By normal and healthy I mean I eat well, I don't exercise a lot but I'm not overweight, no history of epilepsy in my family, I hardly drink alcohol at all, I've never taken illicit drugs...I mean I know they call it "idiopathic" epilepsy but that's just because they don't KNOW the cause, doesn't mean there IS NO cause. Right?

 Does anyone else feel like excessive stress/anxiety and depression may have caused their epilepsy? Sorry for the long post, I thought I'd give some background info. Please, if anyone can relate, please write to me, maybe we can support each other!



All types of abuse — sexual, physical, and emotional (including verbal abuse and witnessing domestic violence) raise the risk of depression, anxiety and epilepsy-like symptoms.

Research featured in Harvard Mental Health Letter and published in The American Journal of Psychiatry looked at the damage that hostile words, and or yelling can have on a child. They found “words are weapons that can cause lasting wounds, especially when wielded by parents against children. The damage is sometimes more serious and lasting than injuries that result from beatings”, say Harvard researchers reporting on a survey of young adults.

Basically, abuse releases a cascade of stress hormones which produces a lasting effect on brain signals. Experiments at McLean Hospital, for example, show that patients with a history of abuse are twice as likely to show abnormal electrical activity as non abused people.   And this abnormal electrical brain activity, in turn, resembles a seizure state, but doesn’t actually produce epilepsy.

Hippocampal Sclerosis

This is a very common (but often unknown) feature of temporal lobe epilepsy. Changes in the hippocampus — the part of the brain that deals with stress, learning and memory – can be caused by hormones flooding the brain during and after a stressful episode. But the BIG question is whether hippocampal sclerosis is the consequence of repeated seizures, or whether it plays a role in the development of the epileptic focus? 

Seizures that are psychological in origin are often called psychogenic seizures. These seizures are most likely triggered by emotional stress or trauma. Some people with epilepsy have psychogenic seizures in addition to their epileptic seizures. It’s a legitimate seizure and should be treated that way, but it is not caused by a problem in the brain.

It’s important to differentiate a seizure from that of a behavioral disorder, but it’s difficult.  Jumpy, have you seen a neurologist yet, because it's important that you get tested for a definitive diagnosis.  For a Comprehensive List of GOOD Neurologists, Epileptologists and Neurosurgeons, go to  These are docs recommended by eforum members of the EFA, based upon positive personal experiences.  Good luck!  Phylis Feiner Johnson



Hi Jumpyjubbles,

The confussion over which is the cause, and which is the effect, between the two conceptual catergories of epilepsy and depression has been around for thousands of years.

My interest in neuropsychiatry was again rekindled recently with a claim that I read in a neurological journal that made the audacious declaration that up to 90% of epilepsy patients in fact suffer from "Psychogenic Non-epileptic Attacks" (PNEAs). The word "Attacks" instead of the word "Seizures," used in "Psychogenic Non-epileptic Seizures" (PNES), was justified as being "Scientifically Correct," along with a brief mention of the disputes over the "Politically Correct" usage of the word "Psychogenic."

The "90%" citation served as an alarm bell to me, because in statistical studies, a result that large indicates that something in the scientific study is probably not valid and objective. I had been looking for evidence backing up similar "large results" in a study of "Acceptance and Commitment Therapy" (ACT) as applied to epilepsy, and I came across at least two major conceptual hurdles, at least in my studies and viewpoints. With ACT, and epilepsy, the created and paired concepts of "clean" and "dirty" epilepsy didn't appear to be validly and objectively established, and the social phenomena in the therapy had way too much in common with identifiable social phenomena observed with programs such as Alcholics Anonymous, to be a statistically new and distinct mode of therapy.

Then, with a good metaphorical firewall, a new fad in neuropsychiatry is growing to make-believe the simultaneous occurrence of true epilepsy with PNEAs as very frequent, with results (statistical artifacts???) so as to make the PNEAs supposed part as "dirty," since that part is not "true" epilepsy. While the claimed "Gold Standard" of epilepsy verified by EEGs is often made, the PNEAs fad has also hinted that many PNEAs patients are so "talented/trained" that they can "fake" EEG readings to read as "true" epileptic seizures, and hence, have emotionally "caused" epilepsy with their emotionally self-induced "brain damage."

In economics, for the short-term only, PNEAs are much more economical and profitable for the medical establishment, with little leverage of investment expenses (the patient can always be told to just "get over with it" whenever facilities are maxed), than epilepsy. In the long-term, the expense is going to be tremendously greater for such policy, but by then, different investors should be backing medicine.

If depression can be portrayed as the germinable seed to any epilepsy, and with many emotions being regarded as contagious (whether anger, hate, love, depression, etc.), epilepsy is well on its way to be prejudicially ranked as both not only a disease, but also a contagious and infectious disease, Once More and Again!!!

The environmental effect resulting from epileptic seizures (no matter how slight the seizure) is compounded through conditioning involving psychological and sociological aspects (nowadays, the environment is more "everybody else"), and as the pseudo-fictional "Ludovico Technique" illustrates, the social environment is the cause behind the Pavlovian and Operant Conditioning, and not just the direct aversive conditioning from seizures themselves as being the sole psychological effect.

"Normal and healthy" people have a nasty prejudicial habit of doing that to people with epilepsy, and then telling the person with epilepsy to accept such dire results so as to be a mature, responsible person with a healthy self-esteem. Accepting such dire results with such popular faith is more like being a willing Lotus eater being acceptable to being limited to the more bitter, and least desirable, Lotus parts, while the "normal and healthy" feast on the most prime Lotus.


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