Mental health and epilepsy: OCD

Being tidy and wanting to make sure things are in their usual place, as well as finding comfort in routines does not automatically mean you have OCD.

For most people, it’s just a way of life. An accusation of being ‘a bit OCD’ is often used to ridicule or belittle a person.

This stereotypical portrayal of OCD can be hurtful to people who are affected by OCD.


What is OCD?

OCD is a mental health condition with a person experiencing obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

An obsessive thought is unwanted and can be unsettling. It can also be an image or urge to do something that keeps coming into your head. This can cause great anxiety.

A compulsive behaviour could be something that you need to do over and over again. For example, you may need to check that all windows are closed several times before you can leave the house.

This type of behaviour can give you relief for a short time from the anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts, for example, an obsessive worry about being burgled.

OCD is a common condition and can affect anyone. It can have a profound impact on your life but with the right treatment, people can learn to manage and live with it.


Epilepsy and OCD

People with epilepsy are more likely to be affected by OCD, particularly those who have temporal lobe epilepsy.

It is not entirely clear why this is. There is some evidence that damage caused by seizure activity to connections in the brain can cause changes in behavioural patterns potentially causing OCD.

For many people with epilepsy though, the need for routines becomes an important part of their life compensating for memory challenges which often go hand in hand with epilepsy.

Seizure activity often affects short-term memory but can also affect long-term memory and the retrieval of information.

This is why some people also struggle to remember important life events from their past.

This difficulty to remember can have very practical implications, such as struggling to take your medication on time, possibly triggering further seizures. That’s why setting up regular and often strict routines can become essential.

Most people with epilepsy manage these new routines well though without spilling over into obsessive or compulsive behaviours and thoughts.


Finding help with OCD

People affected by OCD are often reluctant and maybe even embarrassed to speak to someone or seek help. If this is you, remember, OCD is a genuine mental health condition which requires help and support.  Without that, it is unlikely your OCD will get better.

As a first step, speak to your GP who may refer you for talking therapies. This is often cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

You may also be offered a type of anti-depressant, if appropriate and provided it does not interfere with any of your anti-seizure medication.

If you want to generally talk about your OCD, epilepsy, setting up routines, or just for a listening ear, please contact us on our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2200.

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 a neurological condition. To complete the survey, please click here.