Depression appears to be a significant mental health issue for people with Epilepsy due to shared neurobiology and psychosocial factors.

Epilepsy is a chronic brain disorder condition characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures. The overall prevalence of Epilepsy in India is about 5 for every 1000 adults. There is no doubt that people living with Epilepsy face many challenges that could potentially impact their quality of life. One primary concern is the increased risk of mental health issues, especially Depression.

“Research suggests that there appears to be a bidirectional relationship between Epilepsy and Depression. Not only are people with Epilepsy more prone to Depression, but Depression and other mood disorders can also increase the risk of developing Epilepsy. In fact, up to 60% of people with Epilepsy also experience symptoms of Depression, 3-7 times more frequently than the general population,” said Dr Pawan Ojha, Director-Neurology, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi. 

Why are rates of Depression higher among Epilepsy patients?

Several factors may explain the strong connection between Epilepsy and Depression:

  • The underlying brain abnormalities that lead to seizures may also disrupt connections or create novel connections within the brain that affect mood and emotions. Antiepileptic medications often have side effects in the domain of cognitive functions and mood changes, leading to an increased risk of Depression.
  • The worry related to seizure and their unpredictability can lead to Depression and Anxiety.
  • Social stigma surrounding Epilepsy can also result in embarrassment, isolation, and reduced self-esteem, thereby contributing to Depression.
  • Many people with Epilepsy have to reduce their activities or give up driving, restricting their independence and losing connections, thereby leading to Depression.

How is Depression treated in people with Epilepsy?

“Treating Depression in people with Epilepsy is often challenging. Antidepressants should be used judiciously, as some of them can potentially aggravate seizures by lowering the seizure threshold of brain cells. However, Depression should not go untreated as it can worsen seizure control and quality of life,” said Dr Ojha.

“A pragmatic approach to treating Depression in epilepsy is to aim for adequate seizure control through optimal use of anticonvulsant medications, a Ketogenic diet, or even surgery. Another method that can be employed is Cognitive behavioral Therapy (CBT) and counselling sessions to help develop coping strategies. Further, suitable lifestyle adjustments like regular exercise, sleep hygiene, stress management, and social support are also recommended. Always inform your Neurologist about any medicines other doctors to-prescribe as well. Following these steps can help, although one must always consult a mental health professional for early and adequate treatment of Depression,” Dr Ojha stated.

Depression appears to be a significant mental health issue for people with Epilepsy due to shared neurobiology and psychosocial factors. Proper screening and early treatment of Depression through pharmacological and non-pharmacological means can significantly reduce its burden, while at the same time improve the quality of life for those living with Epilepsy.


Source:, Sambhav Kumar