Epilepsy is a neurological condition that can cause seizures, typically characterised by 2 or more unprovoked seizures. It’s important to note that not all seizures are epileptic. There are many reasons why someone can have a non-epileptic seizure.
Epileptic seizures are caused by a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. We all have electrical activity constantly going on in our brains and it’s completely normal. But when a surge of electrical activity happens, there is a temporary disruption in how the brain normally operates. This causes an epileptic seizure.
Classed as chronic illness, epilepsy is usually with you for life. But with anti-epileptic drugs and certain lifestyle choices to control seizures, many people live full lives despite an epilepsy diagnosis.
Are all epileptic seizures the same?
In short, no.
There are so many different types of seizures and everyone has their own individual experience of epilepsy. This can range from seizures lasting seconds up to a few minutes. This might not seem long, but they can be exhausting for the person experiencing a seizure.
Epileptic seizures are very diverse to say the least, there are many different seizures someone can experience;
- Focal seizures (partial seizures)
- Tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal seizures)
- Absence seizures (petit mal seizures)
- Myoclonic seizures (myoclonic jerks)
- Tonic seizures
- Atonic seizures (drop attacks)
I’m no expert on all of these different types of seizures because I only live with tonic clonic seizures. For more information on the various types of seizures, I suggest you read Epilepsy Action’s seizures explained page.
Who can develop epilepsy?
Anyone can develop epilepsy and the WHO names it as one of the most common neurological diseases globally. So it’s no surprise that epilepsy impacts around 600,000 people in the UK alone. And with around 87 people diagnosed in the UK every day, I’m personally not expecting this figure to drop.*
Epilepsy does not discriminate by age, race, gender, class or any other categories we might fit into. It’s one of the world’s oldest known illnesses, yet around half of all epilepsy diagnoses have no known cause. It really surprised me to learn that written recordings of epileptic seizures date back to 4000BC! Surely this means we have to be somewhat close to a cure?!
How do I help someone who is having an epileptic seizure?
As I mentioned earlier there are SO MANY different types of epilepsy. Meaning there is no way you can possibly know how to respond to each one and what support each individual needs.
Yet in general, it can be relatively simple to help someone who is having a seizure. The Epilepsy Society summed this up well with their “Calm, Cushion, Call” campaign that was released for National Epilepsy week 2019.
If you follow the Calm, Cushion, Call guidance you will be able to keep the person suffering a seizure safe. So make sure you remember to;
1) Remain calm
2) Cushion an individual’s head with something soft
3) Call an ambulance if the seizure lasts over 5 minutes,
Based on personal experience, I would recommend staying with someone until they are clear-headed again. Waking up confused and scared is a terrible experience, so having someone there to support you can make a huge difference.
Living with seizures
Epilepsy is completely different for each and every person who has it. If you are living with seizures or recently received a diagnosis it can feel very lonely. One thing you definitely need to know is that you are not alone, ever. There are over 500,000 people with epilepsy in the UK alone, with around 87 people being diagnosed every day.
Living with epilepsy will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions and different experiences at any given point. The trick is to learn your triggers and manage them, as well as looking at how your lifestyle is impacting your health. Try not to compare yourself to others because there is hardly any consistency in epileptic seizures from person to person. Some might have only a handful of seizures a year, but others might suffer seizures daily. So make sure you look at your seizure-free time relative to your own body.
It’s important to learn about seizure first aid, no matter who you are. You can learn about supporting someone who is having a seizure by visiting the Epilepsy Society.
Where can I go for more information about epilepsy?
There are plenty of resources out there to learn more about epilepsy. I tend to use the bigger charities and organisations for my learning.
For a starting point, take a look at:
I hope this has helped give you a basic understanding of epilepsy. Although this is just a starting point, there is so much more that can be learnt. If you find anything interesting please let me know by filling in the form on my contact page!
Are you feeling lost after having a tonic-clonic seizure? Or do you want to understand how it feels to have epilepsy, to support a loved one better? An insight into one of my tonic-clonic seizures might help.
Epilepsy anxiety doesn’t seem to be talked about much. In all honesty, it can be very easy to assume that epilepsy only consists of physical seizures like tonic-clonic seizures. But this isn’t reality.
For many people with epilepsy, it’s completely normal to have a pretty horrendous memory. Epilepsy creates memory problems that are just plain unnecessary and are more than your standard forgetfulness.
Life with epilepsy isn’t simple. You need a support system and at times you need to rely on that support system heavily. This can often lead to strong feelings of guilt, of being an inconvenience to those around you.
International Epilepsy Day comes around every year on the 2nd Monday in February. It’s a chance to raise extra awareness about epilepsy, the treatments and research needed and the struggles faced day-in-day-out