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Puberty

Body Changes

Puberty is the time when a boy’s body begins to change into a man’s body. This begins between ages 12-14 years, but some boys may start puberty earlier. During puberty

  • You grow more body hair
  • Your testicles and penis will grow
  • You will start to sweat more
  • And your voice will deepen

Having epilepsy does not typically change how or when you go through puberty.

Mood changes

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Since the brain is also changing and developing during puberty, boys may experience a range of different emotions (sometimes in rapid swings), including sadness, irritability, anger, anxiety, self-consciousness, and sexual desire. Boys with epilepsy may be more likely to experience negative emotions like depression and anxiety compared to their peers without epilepsy.

If you struggle with negative emotions, talk to your family and your health care team about options for treatment. You are not alone!

Social Issues

Driving

Learning to drive and getting a driver’s license may be the most important step toward gaining a sense of independence in the teen years. For boys with epilepsy, there may be a delay in reaching this milestone if their seizures are not controlled. Driving a car is exciting, but also very dangerous. Different states have different laws about how long you will have to be seizure-free before getting your license.

Partying

As a teen, you may feel pressured to drink alcohol or use drugs when in social situations. Some people will try to convince you that these things will make you feel better, more relaxed or happy - and you might be curious.

As a person with epilepsy, you need to be aware that you are at a higher risk for serious health consequences from drinking alcohol or using certain drugs - especially “stimulant” drugs like amphetamines and cocaine.

Stimulants will make you much more likely to have a seizure, and alcohol withdrawal can do the same thing.

Make wise choices!

Relationships

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It is important at all stages of life to have friends who understand and support you. As a teenager, you are likely to make some friendships that will last a lifetime. You may feel scared or embarrassed to discuss your epilepsy with your friends - and you don’t have to tell everyone you know - but if you spend a lot of time with someone and you have even occasional seizures, it is probably best to discuss what may happen to you if you have a seizure, and what they should do if they see you have one.

Deciding To Have Sex

During your teen years, the question of if and when to start having sex will probably come up. You may have friends who start having sex and tell you that you should, too. We hear about it in music and see it in movies… but that doesn’t mean that you have to have sex before you are ready in order to be “normal.”

It is a very personal decision that should be made carefully. Boys should never feel pressured to have sex. If and when you decide it is time to have sex, it is important to know possible consequences and to take steps to prevent exposure to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and also to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

Be sure to have a conversation with your partner about your choices for birth control. Using condoms every time you have sex is the best way to avoid exposure to STDs but as a birth control method, it is not 100% reliable. No method is, but certain options such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and birth control pills are much more reliable for preventing pregnancy.

School

People with epilepsy are more likely to have problems with concentration and memory than people without epilepsy. While you are still in school, this might be especially noticeable. Talk to your doctor to find out if your memory and concentration issues may be due to medication side effects, and if changes to medication can be made safely. Otherwise, talk to your teachers about getting extra time for taking tests.

Jobs and Career Planning

As a teenager, you may start working at least part time or in the summers until you are done with high school. This is also the time that most people begin to think about long-term career planning. Will you go to college? Join the military? Learn a trade?

Almost all options should be available to most people with epilepsy, unless the job is particularly high-risk, and seizures are not well-controlled.

Any job that requires driving, climbing to high places, using firearms or working around dangerous equipment or water could be considered risky to someone who has uncontrolled seizures. People with epilepsy can still hold many such jobs if their seizures are well controlled with medication. There are a few jobs that are not available to people with epilepsy, such as interstate truck driver and pilot.

Establishing Your Identity - Becoming YOU

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The teenage years are a time of big changes. You may struggle at times as you figure out the person you want to become as an adult. Having epilepsy may feel like an extra burden to bear, but it should not define you. You are not “an epileptic” — you are a young man (who happens to have epilepsy) who can be successful and happy. Work with your neurologist and other healthcare providers to keep your seizures controlled. Make healthy choices…and “seize the day!”

Authored By: 
Kristine Ziemba MD, PhD
Authored Date: 
09/2019
Reviewed By: 
Elaine Wirrell MD
Teresa Cook RN
Elaine Kiriakopoulos MD, MSc
on: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2019