ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Parenting

What are the chances that my children will have epilepsy?

As a man with epilepsy, your offspring are at a slightly higher risk than the general population for developing this disorder.

  • Recent studies show that offspring of men with epilepsy (MWE) have a 2.4 percent risk of developing it, as opposed to the general population, whose risk is estimated at 1 percent.
  • If both parents have epilepsy, the risk that their offspring will develop epilepsy increases, although estimates vary widely. Some statistics say the risk of developing epilepsy when both parents have it is about 5 percent, while others place it closer to 15 or 20 percent.

Will my children be at increased risk for other health problems because I have epilepsy?

Some research suggests that offspring of MWE may be at higher-than-normal risk for the following medical problems: neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis and genetically determined epilepsies such as juvenile myoclonic epilepsy.

What special considerations do I need to keep in mind as a parent?

If your epilepsy is well-controlled, you face very few restrictions on caring for a child with epilepsy. However, if your epilepsy causes episodes of impaired consciousness and limited control of movement, you need to take special precautions when caring for a baby or a young child.

Keeping infants safe

Sleep deprivation and new parenthood often go hand-in-hand. Stress that is induced by sleep deprivation can aggravate seizures; sleep deprivation may also lead to missed medications. Be aware of these potential problems and develop a plan to reduce their impact.

Tips to use when caring for an infant:

  • Sit on the floor while feeding a baby. If you tend to fall on the same side during a seizure, position yourself to prevent yourself from falling on the baby.
  • Dress, change and play with the baby on the floor.
  • Avoid bathing a baby in a tub while you are alone.
  • Avoid carrying your baby around the house, especially up and down stairs.
  • Avoid hot drinks around your baby.

When your children are older

Your seizures will not go unnoticed by your children as they get older, so it's important that you openly discuss your epilepsy with them. They will be comforted by knowing that you are not harmed by seizures; in fact, they may feel empowered if you can teach them how to get help if you remain unconscious after a seizure.

When discussing your epilepsy with your children:

  • Keep it simple. Use words that your children understand.
  • Be calm and positive.
  • Explain that you won't be hurt but may need some help during a seizure.
  • When your children are old enough, teach them how to react during a seizure. Show them how to call 911 – in case you're unconsciousness after a seizure.
  • At your discretion, add details about your condition when children are older.

Self-Esteem

The connection between epilepsy and low self-esteem

There is no evidence that epilepsy per se causes low self-esteem. However, recent research suggests that people with epilepsy sometimes have difficulty forming relationships with others, possibly due to neurological damage to the temporal lobe. One study of patients with poorly controlled epilepsy found that 68 percent of subjects had no personal friends. People who lack the social support that friendships offer are likely to feel isolated; subsequently, these feelings of isolation may have a negative impact on self-esteem.

Experts also cite other possible reasons why people with epilepsy are prone to low self-esteem: family over-protection, which prevents individuals from developing independence and self-esteem; the perceived stigma that accompanies epilepsy and resultant negative self-image; and general personal dissatisfaction.

Low self-esteem in males with epilepsy (MWE) is particularly common during adolescence, a period of heightened self-consciousness that may be exacerbated by having epilepsy. Surveys indicate that adolescents whose epilepsy is well-controlled are less likely to suffer from low self-esteem than those who have frequent seizures.

Effects of low self-esteem

Low self-esteem can result in general dissatisfaction. It can also adversely affect specific aspects of life. For instance, low self-esteem may contribute to sexual problems, such as decreased libido. Low self-esteem may also be partially responsible for under-employment among MWE. A recent report by the Epilepsy Foundation documented that people with epilepsy have an unemployment rate of 25 percent. Among people whose seizures are poorly controlled, that rate approaches 50 percent.

Ways to improve self-esteem

Controlling epilepsy

Controlling epilepsy may help improve self-esteem. One study found that in children with epilepsy who successfully underwent surgery, it not only alleviated seizures at a younger age, but also improved the psychosocial status of these individuals later in life.

Support groups

Group interventions have proved beneficial as self-esteem boosters. For instance, a recent study demonstrated how adolescents with epilepsy benefited from a 6-week, structured psycho- educational group intervention. The intervention involved cognitive-behavioral strategies in which participants were encouraged to share their own experiences. Results showed that the intervention helped participants better understand their disease and engage in peer support. Post-intervention outcome measurements indicated an overall positive trend for quality of life improvement, suggesting that support groups would benefit MWE suffering from low self-esteem.

Stress management

Stress management has been linked to improvements in self-esteem and seizure control. Recent research indicates that, by increasing self-esteem, MWE may be able to manage stressful situations more effectively. Moreover, studies indicate that stress management may lead to improved seizure control in some MWE. Therefore, MWE who suffer from low self-esteem and anxiety may benefit by learning and practicing relaxation techniques. Examples of these techniques include aromatherapy, tai chi, reflexology and meditation.

Seeking professional help

If feelings of low self-esteem persist for a prolonged period of time or interfere with daily living, it is advisable to seek help from a trained professional, such as a clinical psychologist or a qualified counselor. A referral can be obtained through a primary care provider.

Reviewed by: Joseph I. Sirven, MD | Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN on 3/2014
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT