It's important to remember that depression can occur separately from epilepsy. However, it may be related to epilepsy in several ways. People with epilepsy may be more likely than other people to experience emotional changes.
In some people, the mood disorder may be associated with the seizure itself. Mood changes may occur before, during or after a seizure.
In other people, however, mood changes are not related to the timing of a seizure, but relate to where the seizure is coming from in the brain. A seizure that comes from an emotional center in the brain may be more likely to produce a change in mood.
How often seizures happen also plays a role in depression. People who have seizures frequently may be more likely to feel depressed than people who have well-controlled seizures.
In some instances, the side effects of treatment, such as use of antiepileptic drugs, may affect mood. If this happens, a change of treatment may help.
Lifestyle risk factors are also important in the development of depression in people with epilepsy. In one study, four factors were linked to depression: poor adjustment to seizures, increases in stressful life events, financial stress and being a woman.
In addition, people who feel "controlled" by their epilepsy and feel that it dominates their lives may be more susceptible to mood disorders.
The results of studies to find out how many people with epilepsy have a mood disorder such as depression vary widely, ranging anywhere from 11 percent to 60 percent. A lot depends on how depression is defined and the groups of people being studied — for example, hospitalized patients or those in outpatient clinics.
In general, when standardized methods are used, about 29 percent of people with epilepsy have a major depressive disorder.
If you suspect you are depressed, don't try to diagnose yourself. Your general practitioner and the neurologist who treats you for epilepsy are first stops on the way to an answer. They may evaluate and treat you themselves, or they may suggest that you see a psychiatrist who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of mood disorders. It is important that you consider some important questions prior to the visit and be ready to discuss them with your doctor. Find out more about seeking medical help, including when hospitalization is needed.
Like epilepsy, depression may be treated with medication. However, talk therapy (counseling) is often tried first. Often counseling plus medication works better than medication alone. Some lifestyle changes may also help. Find out more about treatment options for epilepsy, including how to find a counselor or therapist.