Epilepsy And Depression: Understanding the Link

Epilepsy and depression are both common conditions that affect people in different ways. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures, while depression is a mood disorder that affects a person’s emotional state, causing feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed. Although they are two separate conditions, research has shown that there is a link between epilepsy and depression. In this article, we will explore the connection between the two, the risk factors for developing depression in people with epilepsy, and the treatment options available.

The Link Between Epilepsy and Depression

Studies have found that people with epilepsy have a higher risk of developing depression than the general population. This link is not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to the impact epilepsy has on a person’s quality of life. Epilepsy can be a complex and unpredictable condition, and the fear of having a seizure can lead to anxiety and stress. Additionally, the social stigma attached to epilepsy can make people feel isolated and marginalized, which can contribute to depression.

Another possible explanation for the link between epilepsy and depression is that both conditions share some of the same underlying neurological abnormalities. For example, epilepsy is caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, while depression has been linked to changes in the levels of certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) that regulate mood and emotion. It is possible that these shared abnormalities may make some people more susceptible to developing both conditions.

Risk Factors for Depression in People with Epilepsy

Not everyone with epilepsy will develop depression, but there are certain risk factors that make it more likely. These risk factors include:

  • Severity of epilepsy: People with more severe forms of epilepsy are at a higher risk of developing depression.
  • Frequency of seizures: People who have frequent seizures are more likely to develop depression than those who have infrequent seizures.
  • Age of onset: People who develop epilepsy at a younger age are more likely to develop depression than those who develop it later in life.
  • Family history of depression: People with a family history of depression are more likely to develop it themselves.
  • Treatment side effects: Some of the medications used to treat epilepsy can cause side effects that contribute to depression.
  • Financial and social stress: People with epilepsy may face financial and social challenges that can contribute to depression.

Treatment Options

If you have epilepsy and are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider. There are several treatment options available that can help manage both conditions.


Antidepressant medications are commonly used to treat depression in people with epilepsy. These medications work by altering the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate mood and emotion. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about the potential side effects of these medications and how they may interact with your epilepsy medications.


Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can be an effective way to treat depression in people with epilepsy. It involves talking to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or therapist, to help identify and address the underlying causes of your depression. Psychotherapy can also help you develop coping strategies to manage the emotional and practical challenges of living with epilepsy.

Lifestyle Changes

There are several lifestyle changes you can make to help manage both epilepsy and depression. These include:

  • Getting regular exercise
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Reducing stress through relaxation techniques or mindfulness practices
  • Connecting with supportive friends or family members


Epilepsy and depression are two conditions that can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. While they are two separate conditions, research has shown that they are linked, and that people with epilepsy are at a higher risk of developing depression. If you have epilepsy and are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider to discuss the treatment options that are available. With the right care and support, it is possible to manage both conditions and live a fulfilling life.


FAQs about Epilepsy and Depression

What is the relationship between epilepsy and depression?

Research has shown that people with epilepsy are at an increased risk of developing depression. This is due to a combination of factors, including the stress of living with a chronic illness, medication side effects, and changes in brain chemistry. Depression can also worsen seizure control, making it important to address both conditions in epilepsy management.

What are the common symptoms of depression in people with epilepsy?

The symptoms of depression can manifest differently in people with epilepsy. Common symptoms include feelings of sadness, hopelessness or worthlessness, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and difficulty concentrating. It’s important to be aware of these symptoms and seek treatment from a healthcare professional.

How can depression in people with epilepsy be treated?

Depression in people with epilepsy can be treated with a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Antidepressant medication can be effective in treating depression, but it’s important to work with a healthcare professional to find the right medication and dosage. Therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, can also help manage symptoms. Lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and stress management techniques, can also improve mood and overall well-being. It’s important to approach treatment for depression holistically and work with a healthcare professional to find the best approach for each individual.


1. Hesdorffer, D. C., & Hauser, W. A. (2016). Depression and epilepsy: Epidemiologic and neurobiologic perspectives that may explain their high comorbid occurrence. Epilepsy & Behavior, 61, 221-231. (Hesdorffer & Hauser, 2016)

2. Kanner, A. M. (2018). Depression in epilepsy: Prevalence, clinical semiology, pathogenic mechanisms, and treatment. Biological Psychiatry, 15, 193-202. (Kanner, 2018)

3. Tellez-Zenteno, J. F., Patten, S. B., Jetté, N., Williams, J., & Wiebe, S. (2007). Psychiatric comorbidity in epilepsy: A population-based analysis. Epilepsia, 48(12), 2336-2344. (Tellez-Zenteno et al., 2007)