Why Stress Can Be a Seizure Trigger
Last updated: November 2022
What is a seizure?
Seizures are due to uncontrolled electrical activity in our brains. This electrical activity occurs between our brain cells, called neurons. We can measure seizure activity on an EEG, or electroencephalogram. During an EEG, a technician will attach many electrodes that look like small silver discs to your scalp. These electrodes measure your brain activity.1,2
Epilepsy is a seizure disorder. A person with epilepsy will experience repeated seizures that are unprovoked (not caused by things like brain injuries, bleeding, or infections). People with epilepsy need to take drugs that prevent seizures.1,2
What is stress?
Stress is our body’s reaction to things causing us to feel threatened or under pressure. Stress can be caused by physically or emotionally demanding situations. Every person has stress responses that are unique to them. Some people feel achy backs or nauseous stomachs while others may have trouble sleeping or racing thoughts. Stress can be caused by minor things in life, such as deadlines at work, or by major life events, including the death of a loved one.1,2
Why can stress trigger seizures?
Scientists do not know the exact way stress causes seizures. But they have found that there can be a connection between stress and seizures.1,2
There have been studies showing this connection. Patients have reported stress as a trigger. One study asked patients to write down their stress levels and seizures each day. It showed that the higher the stress, the more seizures those patients had.1,2
Studies also show that people who say stress triggers their seizures have higher rates of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. These people also report higher rates of childhood trauma than people who do not have stress as a trigger.1,2
What can I do to reduce stress?
You may already know some ways to help reduce your stress. Here are a few ways to reduce physical and emotional stress on your body. Reducing your stress may also help you reduce seizures:1,2
Make sure you take your medicines. If you need to, set yourself a reminder on your phone or watch. Or write it down on a sticky note and put it where you will see it.
Get good-quality sleep. Getting enough sleep has a double effect: It can reduce seizures and the stress that triggers seizures.
Build up healthy habits. These include:
- Eating a balanced diet
- Exercising regularly
- Making time for hobbies and loved ones
- Avoid or limit alcohol and other drugs. This includes caffeine and recreational drugs. These substances can affect you both physically and mentally. Avoiding them may help your stress level.
- Get a counselor or therapist to talk to about your mental health.
- Take time to journal and meditate in whatever way works for you. There is scientific evidence that shows meditation is one of the most successful ways to reduce stress.
Since being diagnosed with epilepsy, has your memory been impacted?