Ask anyone whether they’ve been affected by anxiety, and most people will say they’ve experienced it at some point in their life.
Anxiety, just like epilepsy, can be different for each person.
How well we cope with anxiety depends so much on what’s causing it, what support structures we have in place, how easy it is to access professional help, and our general resilience.
What is anxiety?
It can be a constant nervous energy, a feeling of dread, or just feeling uneasy about something. It can actually give you very physical symptoms such as sweating, feeling restless or your heart racing.
Anxiety impacts on so many aspects of your life. It can affect how well you sleep, your ability to concentrate, focus and remember, what you eat, and generally how well you look after yourself.
Short term anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. It can be a completely normal reaction to a stressful situation. Most people are anxious before an important event, those final exams, your wedding day, or starting a new job.
But it becomes an issue when it happens over a prolonged period of time, and when it starts affecting your life and the choices you make.
Anxiety can stop you from experiencing new things, make you withdraw from your friends and family, and shrink your world. Anxiety can be exhausting.
Epilepsy and anxiety
People with epilepsy often struggle with their mental health and are affected by anxiety. There can be good reasons for feeling anxious.
A new diagnosis may leave you with many questions and a lot of uncertainty. Nobody likes not knowing what’s round the corner and not being able to make plans.
Add to that the unpredictability of seizures. Not knowing when your next seizure strikes can make you feel constantly on edge. All of these feelings are completely normal after a new diagnosis.
Give yourself time, be patient and talk to people. Your anxiety may ease off once your medication starts reducing the amount of seizures you have. With every seizure free day, week or month you may start to feel more confident and may be able to shake off that feeling of anxiety.
Anxiety can also sometimes be a side effect of some anti-seizure medications. It can also be linked to seizure activity. Some people may feel a nervous sensation or anxiety in the run up to a seizure.
Always speak to your epilepsy specialist nurse or neurologist who may want to review your medication.
Getting help with anxiety
The message is loud and clear: don’t be alone with your anxiety. It can be difficult reaching out and asking for help, or even acknowledging that you are anxious.
Anxiety is not always obvious. It can be low level and it may take you a while to realise it is affecting you.
If you don’t know where to turn to, here are some of our suggestions:
- Contact our Helpline on 0808 800 2200. Our friendly helpline officers are here for you. We understand how epilepsy can affect mental health and may be able to make some suggestions. And we can listen to you. We can also refer you to other Epilepsy Scotland services such as our Check-in service or Wellbeing service which can provide further mental health support on an ongoing basis.
- Make an appointment with your GP and ask for help. A GP may be able to refer you to a counsellor, suggest anti-anxiety medication or discuss lifestyle changes with you.
- Speak to your epilepsy specialist nurse. Anxiety is no stranger to epilepsy, and they are used to supporting their patients with their anxieties, whatever the cause.
- Anxiety can often feel more overwhelming at night. If you need to talk or feel you are not coping, contact NHS24 on 111. Other helplines can also provide much needed support such as Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87, or the Samaritans on 116 123 when your GP is closed.
- And finally, just talk. Don’t hold it all in. Some people may find it more difficult to open up, but it’s the first step towards feeling more in control of your anxiety and getting the help you need.
We have launched Scotland’s first-ever national survey seeking to understand the effect epilepsy can have on the mental health of someone who has the neurological condition. To complete the survey, please click here.