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Epilepsy: Tips for Mood and Anxiety Management
You daily manage a difficult, unpredictable illness that is stigmatized, triggering issues around self-image and safety.
Your mental health care needs are largely the same as everyone’s. Regular exercise is important, as is eating nutritious foods and getting enough sleep. Having work, personal interests that are meaningful, and social connections boosts well-being in all of us.
However, the symptoms of epilepsy also make your mental health concerns unique.
Tips to Diminish Anxiety
- Build a health care team that includes mental health support. It is reassuring to have someone to contact for anxiety concerns. To your list of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and caregivers, add an anxiety go-to person.
- Keep an epilepsy record or diary that you can take to medical appointments. You or the doc may spot a symptom pattern or discover a seizure trigger that will benefit your treatment. Write down the time and date of seizures and what is going on around you when they occur. Keep track of medication side effects and changes in mood or behavior.
- Find relaxation techniques you enjoy and practice them regularly. This will reduce stress, anxiety, and help lift your mood. There are many options such as meditation, controlled breathing, yoga, Tai chi, or Qi gong. You might also consider treating yourself to a massage.
- Have a seizure-management plan and make sure everyone in your life has a copy. The plan should detail, step by step, what to do if you have a seizure. Also, wear medical ID jewelry or carry a medical ID card.
The go-to might be an epilepsy support group, mental health professional, doctor, or a good friend who agrees to field anxiety calls day or night.
Some anxiety is an inevitable part of life, but it becomes a mental health problem when it prevents people from doing what they normally do. If your anxiety disrupts your life, seek professional help.
Tips to Elevate Mood
- Living as independently as possible helps people feel capable and confident, and it increases self-esteem. If you live with caregivers, do not let them do anything for you that you can do yourself.
- Humor is a great mood-brightener and keeps many depressed people afloat. If you do not already, try finding the lighter-side of dealing with epilepsy. Take every opportunity to laugh, especially with others.
- Research indicates that people who educate their self about epilepsy manage the illness better than those who know little about it. Having knowledge boosts mood and self-esteem. Children who are educated about epilepsy have fewer behavioral problems and better social interactions with other kids. Parents fare better by knowing more as well.
- Whether homebound or out and about, build a social network and interact with those people regularly. If leaving the house is a problem, make friends via the computer. Take advantage of forums and social media. If you and your friends download Skype, you can see one another whenever you wish.
As with anxiety, if depressive symptoms begin taking over your day or crimps your functioning, it has become a mental health problem that needs professional attention.
An effective treatment for people struggling with epilepsy and mental health issues is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is based on the idea that what we feel is triggered by how we think. Therapy sessions will focus on the thoughts and beliefs you hold that create anxiety or tarnish your self-image.
Typically, CBT sessions occur once per week for about 4-16 weeks, and many insurance companies cover them.
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