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6 Reasons Why Chemical Imbalance Does Not Explain All Seizures

Recently, EpilepsyU has received many comments stating that seizures can be controlled with the right brain chemistry, that seizures are caused by an imbalance in the brain. While this may explain a small percentage of seizures, this theory cannot be applied to everyone. We have compiled a list of six reasons why “Chemical Imbalance” cannot explain all seizures, nor can the right chemistry control seizures in everyone who has epilepsy or a seizure disorder such as Psychogenic Seizures.

An adult who experiences a seizure for the first time will be evaluated with a head scan and blood tests to look for chemical imbalances. Many chemical imbalances have been identified that can cause seizures, but all seizure causes cannot be explained by chemical imbalance.

1. Brain Damage Caused Seizures – Seizures happen in 1 of every 10 people who have a TBI that required hospitalization. The seizure usually happens where there is a scar in the brain as a consequence of the injury. - http://www.msktc.org/tbi/factsheets/Seizures-After-Traumatic-Brain-Injury

There is no chance that balancing chemicals in the brain will stop seizures in those individuals who have sustained physical damage to a portion of the brain. Many of these types of injury induced seizures are treatable with Anti-Epileptic Drugs (AEDs) or surgery.

How AEDs Work (http://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/how-anti-epileptic-drugs-work)

AEDs make the brain less likely to have seizures by altering and reducing the excessive electrical activity (or excitability) of the neurones that normally cause a seizure. Different AEDs work in different ways and have different effects on the brain.

How Surgery Works (http://www.webmd.com/epilepsy/tc/epilepsy-surgery)

Even though medicine is the most common approach to treating epilepsy, it does not always work. In almost one-third of people with epilepsy, medicine cannot control their seizures adequately (or at all, in some cases). This number is even higher in people with focal epilepsy. Surgery can greatly improve the lives of some people who have epilepsy.

Epilepsy surgery removes an area of abnormal tissue in the brain, such as a tumor or scar tissue, or the specific area of brain tissue where seizures begin. Before surgery, you may have several tests (including an electroencephalogram [EEG],magnetic resonance imaging [MRI], and video monitoring) to find exactly where seizures begin in the brain. After the area of abnormal tissue where your seizures begin has been located, doctors can decide whether or not it can be removed safely.

2. Congenital and Genetic Causes of Seizures - Recent research has identified several genetic disorders that cause seizures. In these patients, genetic mutations can cause various issues in the brain that cause seizures that cannot be diagnosed as a chemical imbalance. Idiopathic or primary seizures are diagnosed when a genetic (or family) cause for the seizures is suspected. When it is necessary to classify epilepsy according to cause, similar terms are used. Examples of Congenital and Genetic Seizure disorders include: Down syndrome; Angelman’s syndrome; tuberous sclerosis, neurofibromatosis, Dravet Syndrome, etc.

These seizures originate because of structural issues in the brain, and sodium-ion channels that do not function correctly, again, chemical imbalance does not describe the origin of seizures in these patients and there is very little chance that any type of diet could stop the seizures. AEDs and Surgery can be effective in some patients, while others have very little chance of seizure control with modern medicine.

Brain function—from cell membrane to level of neurotransmitter substances to other biochemical mechanisms—is controlled by individual genes that, if damaged or mutant, may lead to seizures. The search is on for genes that may be directly linked to a specific type of epilepsy. Recent discoveries in this area include a gene associated with progressive myoclonic epilepsy, and the gene for Dravet Syndrome.

There is a study called the Phenome/Genome Project that studies how genetics affect epilepsy. To learn more about this study or find out how to participate, click here.

3. Focal Seizures – Focal seizures, also called partial seizures, occur in just one part of the brain. About 60 percent of people with epilepsy have focal seizures. These seizures are frequently described by the area of the brain in which they originate. For example, someone might be diagnosed with focal frontal lobe seizures.

Focal seizures can originate because of brain tumors or infections, heat stroke, or low blood sugar (which may be considered a chemical imbalance, but that is not the cause of ALL focal/partial seizures) Partial seizures (also called focal seizures and localized seizures) are seizures which affect only a part of the brain at onset. The brain is divided into two hemispheres, each consisting of four lobes – the frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes. In partial seizures the seizure is generated in and affects just one part of the brain – the whole hemisphere or part of a lobe. Symptoms will vary according to where the seizure occurs. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partial_seizure)

Interruptions in normal brain activity can be caused by electrical disturbances. These disturbances occur as a result of neurons generating uncoordinated electrical signals. Normal and abnormal nerve cells within the brain can send abnormal electrical signals, resulting in seizures. Head trauma, such as stroke, can also lead to abnormal electrical activity and disturbances in the brain, leading to these seizures.(http://www.wisegeekhealth.com/what-causes-focal-seizures.htm)

4. Stroke - Seizures, as well as the onset of epilepsy, can occur after a stroke. Having one seizure after a stroke does not necessarily mean a person has epilepsy; however, if chronic and recurring seizures are a result of a stroke, then a stroke survivor may be diagnosed with epilepsy.

When stroke warning signs are not clearly present, a seizure may indicate that a person had a stroke, especially in children and infants. Stroke is similar to brain damage caused seizures and also similar to brain bleed caused seizures, but it is a distinct type of injury and brain bleed and also cannot be diagnosed as a chemical imbalance, nor can the seizures that result be treated by “balancing the chemistry” of the brain. (http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=seizures)

5. Brain Bleeds – When blood from trauma irritates brain tissues, it causes swelling. This is known as cerebral edema. The pooled blood collects into a mass called a hematoma. These conditions increase pressure on nearby brain tissue, and that reduces vital blood flow and kills brain cells.

Bleeding can occur inside the brain, between the brain and the membranes that cover it, between the layers of the brain’s covering or between the skull and the covering of the brain.(http://www.webmd.com/brain/brain-hemorrhage-bleeding-causes-symptoms-treatments)

Seizures are a common result of brain bleeds due to cells not functioning as they did before asphyxiation due to lack of proper blood circulation, neither the brain bleed or the resulting seizures can be diagnosed as a chemical imbalance.

6. Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES) – Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES), also known as non-epileptic attack disorders (NEAD), are events superficially resembling an epileptic seizure, but without the characteristic electrical discharges associated with epilepsy. Thus, PNES are regarded as psychological in origin, and may be thought of as similar to conversion disorder. It is estimated that 20% of seizure patients seen at specialist epilepsy clinics have PNES. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychogenic_non-epileptic_seizures)

A specific traumatic event, such as physical or sexual abuse, incest, divorce, death of a loved one, or other great loss or sudden change, can be identified in many patients with PNES. By definition, PNES are a physical manifestation of a psychological disturbance and are a type of Somatoform Disorder called a conversion disorder.1 Somatoform Disorders are those conditions that are suggestive of a physical disorder, but upon examination cannot be accounted for by an underlying physical condition. Conversion Disorder is a somatoform disorder that is defined as physical symptoms caused by psychologic conflict, unconsciously converted to resemble those of a neurologic disorder. Conversion disorder tends to develop during adolescence or early adulthood but may occur at any age. It appears to be somewhat more common among women. (http://www.epilepsy.com/articles/ar_1112967056)

Again, a chemical imbalance cannot be identified and there is no justification for claiming that Psychogenic Seizures are caused by a chemical imbalance.

Thank you for reading this list of Six (6) Reasons Why Chemical Imbalance Does Not Explain All Seizures. Please share this link and paste it wherever you see this rumor circulating!

– The Team @EpilepsyU.com

 NOTE: This list is not definitive or complete, if you have other reasons that should be added to this list, orr want to suggest any corrections, please email your thoughts to support(at)EpilepsyU.com


  1. wrote on April 10th, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Steve Vasko

    The only thing causing the chemical imbalances are the meds. This is why CBDs are so darn important.

  2. wrote on April 10th, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Steve Vasko

    The only thing causing the chemical imbalances are the meds. This is why CBDs are so darn important.

  3. wrote on April 11th, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Don R. McCloud

    My seizures are caused by permanent lesions that cover the left side of my brain. Due to suffering from 23 concussions in my 41 years.

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