July 22, 2022

Sex and epilepsy: things to think about

Lifestyle & Wellness

If you have seizures, it can be helpful to talk about sex and epilepsy. Read our blog to learn more about epilepsy and sex, and how the condition could affect your sex life.

Sex has many positive effects  - allowing you to be intimate with a partner, have fun, or even reduce stress. Many people with seizures have satisfying sex lives, but issues with sex and epilepsy can come up.

Here is everything you need to know about epilepsy and sex.

A couple embracing as they discuss sex and epilepsy

Issues with epilepsy and sex

Almost everyone, regardless of their health condition, will experience some kind of sexual difficulty in their lives. Research does suggest that sexual problems may be more frequent among people with epilepsy. It particularly seems to affect men (three quarters say they’ve experienced problems), although it’s also common for women (60% of women with epilepsy have reported sexual problems).

There are a few ways that epilepsy and sex problems can appear:

  • In women, problems around sex with epilepsy include lack of desire, vaginal dryness, or pain when having sex.
  • In men, problems around sex with epilepsy include difficulties getting or maintaining an erection and difficulties achieving orgasm.
  • For both men and women with epilepsy, sexual arousal or libido (desire to have sex) can sometimes be lower than with other people.

What causes sex and epilepsy problems?

There is, unfortunately, relatively little research into problems with sex and epilepsy. Some of the possible causes of issues with epilepsy and sex include:

  • Anti-epileptic drugs: Some seizure medication is known to affect people’s libido. If you notice your sexual desire has decreased since you began taking a new seizure medication, speak with your doctor. 

Read more: Seizure medication side effects

  • Seizures and hormones: To feel sexual arousal, our brains release chemicals called hormones. Some scientists believe that epileptic seizures can affect how these hormones are released in the brain.
  • Types of epilepsy: People with certain types of epilepsy are more likely to have sexual problems. For people whose epilepsy starts in the temporal lobe, sexual problems are more common, because it can interact with areas in the brain that regulate sexual desire.
  • Psychological factors: There could also be psychological issues that may affect people with epilepsy’s sex drive. Epilepsy can cause depression and anxiety – feeling like this makes you less likely to want to have sex. Epilepsy may also affect people’s self-esteem, and that also affects their sexual desire.

Mental health: Tips for mental health if you have epilepsy

Can people with epilepsy have sex?

Yes, people with epilepsy can have sex just like anyone else.

Ultimately, sex is about sharing intimate experiences with another person. In modern media, sex is normally portrayed as penetrative sex between a man and a woman. This, however, is just one of the many ways you can be intimate with someone else. So even if you occasionally have problems with vaginal soreness or discomfort, or can’t always get an erection, there are many other things that you can do to share intimate experiences.

What about having seizures during sex?

While it is possible to have a seizure during sex, this is no more likely than at any other time. If you're worried about having a seizure during sex, you might want to try and avoid being intimate at times that you're likely to have a seizure. For example, some people have most of their seizures in the morning, so you might want to avoid having sex then.

Sex and epilepsy with a new partner

Sleeping with someone new is always a little nerve wracking - and this is especially true if you’re worried about seizures. Like with many things in relationships, good communication is key. By letting the other person know that you sometimes have seizures, and telling them what could happen, they will know what to expect.

Love life: Thoughts on dating with epilepsy

Medication and birth control

If you are taking the birth control pill, it's important to be aware that certain anti epilepsy drugs can make the pill less effective. Make sure you speak with your doctor or pharmacist about this.

Sex with epilepsy: communication is key

People with epilepsy can have great sex lives – just like everyone else. If you notice that you are having problems, don’t suffer in silence.

While it can feel a little awkward talking to your doctor about sex, remember they will have ‘seen it all before’. Most sexual problems can be solved through a combination of therapy, changes to lifestyle or medication, as well as specific treatments for each particular problem.