There may be a link between depression and epilepsy. A person with epilepsy has a high risk of depression. Similarly, a person with depression has an increased risk of epilepsy.
Depression and epilepsy are two different health conditions that may occur together. This may be due to neurological changes, hormones, and specific medications.
Living with depression or epilepsy can significantly affect a person’s daily life. For this reason, medical experts recommend early diagnosis and treatment for people with symptoms of depression, epilepsy, or both.
This article explores the link between depression and epilepsy. It also covers causes, treatments, and frequently asked questions.
Medical experts have established a strong relationship between depression and epilepsy. Having epilepsy may significantly increase a person’s risk of depression. Having depression may also make a person more likely to develop epilepsy, according to Epilepsy Action.
The Epilepsy Foundation reports that some types of seizures occur in parts of the brain that are also responsible for mood. This may increase a person’s risk of depression.
The researchers also found that the incidence of depression is about twice as high in people with epilepsy compared with the general population.
People with temporal lobe epilepsy and other frontal epilepsies may have a higher risk of depression.
While researchers have found a strong link between epilepsy and psychiatric comorbidities, more research into the connection is necessary.
However, more research into whether depression directly increases a person’s risk of epilepsy is necessary.
Although experts do not fully understand why depression and epilepsy exist together, they may occur due to numerous factors.
The disruptive effects of epileptic seizures
Changes in the brain
Medical experts note that depressive thoughts may increase the adverse side effects of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). Also, people taking AEDs may experience depression as a side effect.
Coping with the challenges associated with epilepsy may induce stress, causing depression.
If a person has depression with epilepsy, treatment will aim to prevent seizures and reduce the severity of symptoms.
A 2017 study that assessed the diagnosis and treatment of depression in people with epilepsy found that 54% of people experienced improved symptoms following an amygdalohippocampectomy.
The study also points out that improvements in depression usually depend on the outcome of seizures after surgery. This suggests that depression may improve as a result of reduced or better-controlled seizures rather than as a direct result of the surgery itself.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, AEDs can control seizures in 7 out of 10 people with epilepsy.
If medication helps a person control their seizures, this may help reduce depression that occurs due to the stress of seizures.
However, as some medications may cause depression as a side effect, a person’s doctor will work with them to closely monitor their symptoms and adjust their treatment plan accordingly.
Evidence suggests that CBT interventions can help reduce depression in people with epilepsy. CBT can help a person find new ways of coping with their feelings.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about depression and epilepsy.
Can epilepsy medication help depression?
While some AEDs can cause depression as a side effect, some may help stabilize mood. It is best for a person to contact their doctor if they have concerns about their current medication or if they wish to discuss their treatment plan.
What percentage of people with epilepsy have depression?
Depression and epilepsy can often occur together. Depression can affect anywhere from 11–62% of people with epilepsy.
Is epilepsy related to mental illness?
While depression and epilepsy are two different conditions, they may occur together. There are numerous reasons why a person with epilepsy may be at an increased risk of depression. These reasons include neurological changes, psychosocial factors, and medication side effects.
It is best for a person to contact their doctor if they have concerns about epilepsy and depression. A doctor can advise on suitable treatments or help a person adjust their treatment plan, if necessary.