People are more aware today than ever of the importance of talking about mental health. This is very positive as it means that more people are seeking help and getting relief.
Mental health problems are a particular issue for people with epilepsy - and depression is one of epilepsy’s most common comorbidities (when you have a second illness at the same time as the first condition). Fortunately, following some simple self-care tips for mental health can be helpful.
Here is everything you need to know about epilepsy and mental health problems – and how to manage them.
Epilepsy and mental health
Mental health problems can affect anyone, any time, and it is totally normal to experience them. If you have seizures, it is extra important to think about the relationship between epilepsy and mental health. This is because people with epilepsy have high rates of certain mental health problems.
- People with epilepsy are about twice as likely to experience depression as others
- Up to a quarter of people with epilepsy have anxiety disorders at some point, compared with 18% of US adults
It is also important to be aware about the link between medication for epilepsy and mental health problems. Certain kinds of anti-epilepsy medication are known to cause mood changes, interrupt sleep patterns, make people feel fatigued, lose attention or feel agitated.
If you are experiencing unusual moods and you believe this is related to your anti-epilepsy medication, speak to your doctor.
Epilepsy stories: Read how Bree faced her experiences with depression
10 self-care tips for mental health
Oftentimes, mental health issues can be eased with self-care. If your symptoms are relatively mild and have not been going on for a long time, the following mental health tips may help you overcome them.
- Connect with others: Being social and spending time with other people is widely believed to help many mental health problems. Humans are social animals, and so connecting with friends, family and meeting new people can release endorphins in your brain and improve your mood.
- Being mindful: Mindfulness is an increasingly popular way of dealing with mental health challenges. It is a form of meditation where you take out a little time each day just to monitor how you are feeling in a non-judgmental way. There are lots of apps you can use to help with mindfulness.
- Staying active: Exercise is a well known way of dealing with many mental health problems. Working out releases endorphins in your brain, which improves your mood instantly. Exercise can also reduce stress, regulate your emotions and help you sleep better too.
- Eat well: A well-balanced diet means that your body has all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs. That helps improve your mood and regulate brain activity.
- Sleep better: A good night's sleep can really help your mental health. Follow good sleep hygiene practices such as going to bed at a regular time, turning off your phone before you sleep, reading a book and making sure that your bedroom is a comfortable temperature.
Learn more: The link between sleep and seizures
- Manage your stress: If you're feeling overwhelmed by the amount of tasks you have to do, try to break them down into smaller, bite-size chunks. This is also a great mental health tip for the workplace.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs: While drinking a small amount of alcohol is normally OK for people with epilepsy, consuming too much can potentially trigger seizures and affect your mood. You should also avoid illegal drugs for the same reason.
- Take a break: If you are feeling overwhelmed, it is sometimes a good idea simply to take a break. If possible, going on a vacation will allow you to completely decompress. If that’s not possible, a short staycation or doing an activity you enjoy can work wonders.
Find out more: Traveling safely with epilepsy
- Get enough sunlight: Sunlight is believed to help your brain release a hormone called serotonin, which can boost your mood and make you feel calm and focused.
- Ask for help: A final mental health tip is to ask for help if you are struggling. By speaking about your problems with friends and family, your loved ones can offer support and advice. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved.
Epilepsy stories: How Danny coped with negative feelings after his epilepsy diagnosis
Know the limits of self-care tips for mental health
If you have epilepsy, and mental health problems are affecting your life, the simple self-care tips described above can be really helpful.
However, it's important to know the limits of self-care. If your mental health problems persist despite putting some of these tips into practice, speak to your doctor about how you’re feeling. They can recommend more targeted treatments such as therapy or antidepressant drugs.