Stress is Associated with an Increased Risk of Recurrent Seizures in Adults

Listen as Basic Science Editor Sloka Iyengar PhD summarizes research published in Epilepsia about stress and epilepsy.


Epilepsy News From: Thursday, July 27, 2017

Baldin W, Hauser A, Pack A, Hesdorffer D. Epilepsia 58 (2017): 1037–1046.


  • There is some evidence of a relationship between epilepsy and depression. For example, on, we covered an article about antidepressants and epilepsy, along with information about how animal studies can eventually help us understand depression and seizures in people.
  • Although stress is the most frequently reported seizure trigger in people with epilepsy, not a lot is known about the relationship between stress, depression, and epilepsy.
  • In this study, the authors evaluated low-income adults with epilepsy and investigated whether stress was associated with seizures.

Description of study

  • For this study, the authors selected a cohort of adults with epilepsy living in Manhattan between the years 2010 and 2013. By choosing people in a well-defined area, the authors were able to decrease inconsistency in subject background.
  • At the beginning of the study, they carefully recorded details about the participants’ epilepsy background and other clinical information, such as obesity and hypertension.
  • They also recorded details about the stress the subjects encountered, such as
    • stressors in the environment
    • stressful life events (e.g., imprisonment, divorce, death of a spouse or of a close family member)
    • adaptation to stress
    • psychiatric disorders
  • Participants’ seizures were tracked for two years.

Summary of study findings

  • The researchers identified people with a single unprovoked seizure and those with newly diagnosed epilepsy.
  • Parameters that were associated with seizure recurrence were lifetime generalized anxiety disorder, mood disorders, and generalized depression.

What does this mean?

  • The authors found an association between seizure recurrence and mood disorders in people with a single unprovoked seizure and in those with newly diagnosed epilepsy.
  • It is important to remember that this study looks at correlation between stress and seizures, but this does not mean that stress causes seizures or vice versa.
  • The results highlight the importance of studying stress-reducing interventions, such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy, as they may be a safe, non-invasive way to reduce seizures.
  • This study gives credibility to the complex relationship between seizures, mood disorders, and drugs like antidepressants.
  • An interesting future study could be to look at the effects of psychological counselling on seizures in people with epilepsy.

Article published in Epilepsia, March 2017.

Authored by

Sloka Iyengar PhD

Reviewed Date

Thursday, July 27, 2017

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