Social Concerns


Living well is a realistic goal for many people with epilepsy. But life with epilepsy can sometimes pose challenges. Living with epilepsy is like going on a journey with a lot of peaks and valleys. There are times things will be going well. You’re feeling good and whatever you are doing seems to be working. Life is going along smoothly. Then something happens. Maybe your seizures have gotten worse, or you’ve come across different problems in your life. The way you handled problems in the past might not be working as well now. It may be time to reach out and learn something new. You may need a new way of looking at life with epilepsy, a new way of coping, or a new way of getting help.

Being diagnosed with epilepsy can be upsetting and make you feel isolated and alone. Or you’re a caregiver of a person with epilepsy and you're just hearing about seizures for the first time. You feel like you’re the only one.

The good news is - you're not alone. Chances are there is a community of people in your area going through the same challenges you are.

Wherever you are, one of the most important things to help you live with epilepsy is to find a support network – a community of people you can talk to, share the good times and the bad. Get help when you need it and give help when you can to others who may need it.

Talking about it can help in other ways too. Each time someone with epilepsy or a family member shares their story, they are teaching others about epilepsy. One person or one fact at a time.

Epilepsy can put a strain on families in many ways. Everyone is in it together. Yet they experience it differently. The person who has seizures will feel one way, but a caregiver may feel quite differently. Maybe a family member feels helpless as they watch seizures because they can’t make them stop. Maybe they are angry this is happening to their loved one and their lives have changed. They may be scared and try to protect their family member who has seizures. But the person with seizures may feel overprotected and want some space and independence. They may be afraid they are a burden to their family and pull away.

  • The first step is to realize that people will react differently. When reactions aren’t addressed or talked about, relationships between family members can get strained.
  • Each member of the family needs to understand what epilepsy is, how it's treated, and what to expect. (The level of understanding will depend on each person's age and abilities, of course.)
  • Families can be a great source of support for someone with epilepsy, but it might take some work. Encourage all members of your family to learn as much as they can. Then you can share with each other your feelings, fears, and hopes.

Most people with epilepsy can participate fully in school. At times, seizures or side effects of anti-seizure medicines may interfere with schoolwork. Some children and adults may be at risk for learning difficulties from the way seizures affect the brain or from other neurological problems. Anti-seizure medicines may make students feel tired, make it difficult to pay attention, or make a student more forgetful. It may be hard to stay focused during the school day or get homework done at night. Or maybe having seizures at night are causing problems at school during the day. Some students may find they fall behind.

If problems at school happen, don’t wait.

  • Talk to your doctor and tell him or her how you (or your child) feel and what trouble you or your child may be having.
  • Tell the teachers what is going on. Ask for help, such as extra time, tutoring, or whatever it takes.
  • If problems keep up and simple changes don’t help, ask your doctor for a referral to an epilepsy specialist. Improving seizure control or changing medicines to lessen side effects may help with problems at school. Detailed testing may find learning problems so you can get the right kind of help.
  • Talk to the school counselor and see if other help can be set up.
  • Know your rights! Every student should get the help they need to get the most out of school.
  • Involve the school nurse and teachers. Make sure they know what to do if a seizure occurs in school. 
  • And don’t forget that social life in school is important. If you, or your child, are having problems making friends, getting along with others, or feeling bullied, tell someone! Don’t let epilepsy stand in your way!

Having seizures may make it more difficult to find a job or do certain types of work. If you can’t drive due to seizures, then getting to work can be a challenge. This is one of the biggest problems for so many people! If your job depends on being able to drive, then suddenly you may not be able to keep that job. Others may need vocational counseling or training to learn new job skills or find a job where the seizures won’t be a problem.

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal to deny someone a job because of a medical condition if they can perform the essential duties of that job. People who feel they are being discriminated against because they have epilepsy should consider seeing a lawyer who understands disability law.

Find out about a way to improve your chance of being hired.

  • Learn about epilepsy and jobs before you apply for a job or if you start having problems at work.
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse if seizures happen at work or are causing problems. You may need your treatment plan revised to get better seizure control. Or look at possible seizure triggers in the workplace or other parts of your life.
  • Talk to someone at your local Epilepsy Foundation for one-to-one help and to find a vocational counselor. Learn about the laws protecting you in the workplace.
  • Find out what and when you should tell your employer about seizures. In some situations you may not need to disclose anything. Yet people with uncontrolled seizures will want someone to know.
  • Develop a plan on what people should do if you have a seizure at work.
  • Find out if simple accommodations at work may are needed.
  • If you are having problems with an employer or others in the work place, talk to the protection and advocacy staff of your state human rights commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or a social worker who specializes in employment issues. Call our 24/7 Epilepsy & Seizures Helpline at 1-800-332-1000 for referrals.

Authored By:

Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN
Steven C. Schachter, MD

on Thursday, August 31, 2017

Reviewed By:

Joseph I. Sirven MD / Patricia O. Shafer RN MN

on Thursday, August 31, 2017


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