Stress and Seizures

The Interplay Between Stress and Seizures

Stress is a universal human experience that can profoundly impact our bodies and minds. While it has been recognized that stress may contribute to heart disease, digestive issues, and mental health disorders, it is less commonly understood that there may also be a relationship between stress and seizures. This blog will explore the relationship between these two phenomena, shedding light on the role of stress, the impact of stress, and ways to cope with stress.

What is stress?

Stress is both an emotional and physical response to particular situations in life that lead us to feel distressed, uncomfortable, worried, or fearful. The purpose of the stress response in the body is to get us ready to respond to these stressful situations, by keeping us in a state of hyper-arousal.

Short bursts of stress can help us overcome these challenging situations, but the long term effects of stress on the body can impact health and wellbeing.

Triggering Seizures: The Role of Stress

The way that stress directly triggers seizures is not fully understood. However, stress incites a range of physiological responses in the body, which may help explain how stress could trigger seizures:

  • Stressful situations trigger the release of certain hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol in the brain and body
  • These hormones can affect activity in the brain
  • Some areas of the brain which are activated by these chemicals are also areas of the brain that are active during certain types of seizures
  • Stress can also make it harder to sleep, and lack of sleep is known to be a trigger for seizures in some people

Impact of Seizures: The Inception of Stress

Stress-induced seizures can reinforce a vicious cycle, since experiencing a seizure can be a source of stress itself. The unpredictability of seizures can generate anxiety and fear, contributing to increased stress levels. Moreover, the social implications of having a seizure, such as embarrassment or fear of judgment, can exacerbate these feelings of stress. Thus, the cycle continues whereby stress triggers seizures, which in turn, heightens stress levels.

Coping Mechanisms: Breaking the Cycle

Breaking the cycle between stress and seizures may help to improve quality of life for individuals with epilepsy affected by stress-induced seizures. Stress management techniques, such as meditation, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, may help reduce the risk of seizures. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also be beneficial in managing the stress and anxiety associated with seizures. Furthermore, appropriate medical management of seizures may reduce their frequency and intensity, which could lead to lower stress levels.

A circular graphic depicting the cyclical relationships between stress hormones, changes in brain activity, difficulty sleeping, and anticipating seizures or social implications.

Stress and seizures have a complex, bidirectional relationship. Understanding this interplay is critical for individuals with epilepsy and their healthcare providers. By managing stress effectively and seeking appropriate medical treatment, it may be possible to disrupt the stress-seizure cycle and enhance overall wellbeing.


The role of stress as a trigger for epileptic seizures

Olivia Holland
Medical Writer