Everyone feels sad … anxious … or worried… sometimes. All of us have occasional mood swings from happy to sad. These feelings are normal -- except when they happen a lot or when they get in the way of how you want your life to be. When feelings of sadness and changed moods occur often, they make it difficult to function at work, at school, or in relationships. If this is happening to you, you may be dealing with depression, a common form of mood disorder.
Many people with epilepsy experience disagreeable changes in their emotions, and the link between mood disorders and epilepsy has been observed for more than 2,000 years. While this link has been noticed for many years, the relationship between seizures and mood disorders has not been well understood until recently. Now, although we do not have all the answers, we do know that mood disorders occur more often in people with epilepsy than in the general population. Find out more aboutmood disorders, including how they affect people with epilepsy, recognizing mood disorders, seeking medical help and treatment.
Importance of Mood Disorders
Mood disorders in people with epilepsy are very important and can greatly impact a person’s daily activities and quality of life. These feelings may be present most of the time, or appear just before, during, or after a seizure. Some people become depressed, others may be irritable. The most common mood disorders in people with epilepsy are major depression and dysthymia. Some people have milder forms of depression that may also affect quality of life and respond to treatment. Anxiety, while not technically a mood disorder, is another common emotion that occurs more often in people with epilepsy. In order to improve the quality of life with people with epilepsy, it is important for both doctors and patients to be familiar with the commonly encountered problems of mood disorders. Find out more abouttypes of mood disordersand their importance for people with epilepsy.
Recognizing Mood Disorders
Many patients experience problems with mood. You may have a mood disorder if you feel anxious, depressed, irritable, or have feelings of fear, panic, or pain that are not easily explained by your seizures or other medical causes. Learnhow to recognize mood disorders, potential consequences of untreated disorders and how to tell your doctor about possible symptoms.
How Do I Know If I Need Treatment?
At times, everyone experiences some feelings of anxiety, irritability, or depression. However, if these symptoms last a long time, are severe, or interfere with your relationships or job, they probably require treatment. Start by telling the physician who treats your seizures, whether it is a family doctor, internist, or neurologist, about your feelings. Explain how often these symptoms occur, how they make you uncomfortable, and how long they last. If you can, bring in a calendar that tracks these symptoms, just like a seizure calendar. Ask your doctor whether these symptoms might be related to your epilepsy and what to do about them. Together, you and your doctor can decide whether you need treatment for a mood disorder.
Are There Treatments for Mood Disorders?
Many types of treatment are available for mood disorders. Psychotherapy and medication are the mainstays of treatment, which may be used separately or together. The goal is to completely eliminate your symptoms. The most common type of medication treatment is called an antidepressant, of which there are several kinds (see the Commonly Used Antidepressants table below). Your doctor is most likely to prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It is important to remember that medications for mood disorders may require dose adjustments and may take several weeks before becoming fully effective. Just like AEDs, sometimes more than one antidepressant may need to be tried before getting good results. For most individuals with epilepsy, depressive symptoms usually respond very well to low doses of medication.
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