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.

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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.

Learn about the types of seizures.

A 2022 study found the relationship between depression and epilepsy to be complex and multifactorial. The study notes that people with epilepsy or psychogenic nonepileptic seizures have a greater chance of developing depression or other mental health conditions.

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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that about 3.4 million people in the United States live with epilepsy. Around 30% of those people develop other mental health conditions, including depression.

A 2016 study found that people with epilepsy are 4–5 times more likely to have depressive episodes compared with “healthy populations.” It affects roughly 11–62% of people with epilepsy.

While researchers have found a strong link between epilepsy and psychiatric comorbidities, more research into the connection is necessary.

Research from 2017 indicates that the severity of depression may affect the severity of epilepsy. Receiving medication for depression may also affect a person’s epilepsy.

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 may trigger hormonal imbalances, which could play a role in the high rates of depression in epilepsy. In people assigned female at birth, the levels of the sex hormone estrogen may change, leading to a low mood.

Changes in the brain

A 2019 article notes that depression and epilepsy can affect the same temporal lobe. Changes in the temporal lobe due to epilepsy may increase the risk of depression, and vice versa.


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.

Learn more about epilepsy medication.

Psychosocial factors

Coping with the challenges associated with epilepsy may induce stress, causing depression.

A doctor can help a person find ways to manage stress. This can include behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

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.

Learn more about epilepsy surgery.


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.

Behavioral therapy

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?

Epilepsy itself is not a mental illness. However, according to the CDC, around 30% of people with epilepsy also have a mental health condition, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

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.