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The Stigma Of Epilepsy


<p>Unless you know someone with this neurological disorder, most people are unfamiliar with epilepsy other than just being a condition that some people have.&nbsp; Since it is not talked about much in common social circles, this creates a stigma that it is &ldquo;not a big deal&rdquo;, or that it is something &ldquo;weird&rdquo; that &ldquo;other people&rdquo; have.&nbsp; However, epilepsy is common and impacts over 50 million people worldwide.</p> <p><strong>Why does stigma exist with epilepsy?</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The reason for the stigma itself is familiar to anyone who lives with any kind of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and so-on.&nbsp; The main causes include:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Superstition over centuries:</strong> For a long period of time, history explained that epilepsy was a sign of the devil, bad genes, and so-on.&nbsp; Over this time, theis negative impression of it (similar to, for instance, how Down&rsquo;s Syndrome is perceived) has led to society believing that something is &ldquo;wrong&rdquo; with someone who has epilepsy.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>Ignorance and disbelief:</strong> Since epilepsy is not part of the curriculum in school systems, there is a lot of ignorance to the topic.&nbsp; This can even go so far as to lead people to feel as though those impacted by epilepsy can choose or control seizures.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>Hidden disability:</strong> Because it is not a physical impairment, it is &ldquo;invisible&rdquo;, and a person&rsquo;s needs are not always understood or even tolerated.</li> </ul> <p><strong>What does the stigma create?</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Stigma, especially over centuries, creates many issues.&nbsp; The biggest one is that there is a strong viscous cycle between epilepsy and mental health.&nbsp; Since many people do not understand epilepsy, those impacted with it are prone to being isolated and this can lead to issues such as depression.&nbsp; This can lead to more epilepsy episodes, and the cycle repeats.</p> <ul> <li><strong>Predisposition to mental health conditions:</strong> Throughout studies, there is a strong correlation between epilepsy and predisposition to mental health conditions that can be lifelong struggles.&nbsp; The most common one is depression, which can often be linked to suicide attempts.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>Actual vs perceived stigma:</strong> Another byproduct of this stigma is that the stigma itself can take two forms, actual and perceived.&nbsp; Actual stigma is when people around them look down on the epileptic person, and even engage with activities such as bullying and exclusion.&nbsp; Perceived stigma is when the epelpetic person understands that people around then, as well as society in general, stigmatizes them.&nbsp; This is the case even in situations where there is no evidence of stigma.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>Dishonesty with employers, healthcare professionals, etc:</strong> In order to avoid stigma, many epileptics will be dishonest with job applications and even with healthcare professionals about epilepsy.&nbsp; This leads to a compromised quality of care and a poor quality of life when it comes to keeping the diagnosis quiet in the workforce.</li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Simply put, there is shockingly little information out there about epilepsy and even less about its connection to mental health.&nbsp; The two are commonly linked together and, with this impacting so many people worldwide, especially those in lower socioeconomic classes, the time is now to change that for the better.&nbsp; With more documentation comes an opportunity for growth, education, and change.&nbsp;</p>