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Health Information Two Diagnoses: Epilepsy and Mood Disorders

Epilepsy is a complicated disease, but when accompanied by a mood disorder it can make life much more challenging.

"The good news is that there are effective treatments for both epilepsy and mood disorders," says Andres M. Kanner, MD, director of the EEG Laboratory at Rush and an expert in epilepsy and mood disorders. "We work closely with the patient to get the treatment plan that works best."

Mood disorders include major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder (chronic, mild depression) and bipolar disorder (sometimes referred to as manic-depressive illness). Bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating periods of depression and episodes of excitability and increased energy.

"My observation has been that symptoms of depression in patient with epilepsy can be different from those of depressed patients without epilepsy. Added to this, patients often ignore or downplay their depression," says Kanner. "I think it's important to raise awareness about mood disorders and epilepsy, so that people will get the treatment that can help them lead healthier lives."

It is important to recognize mood disorders as they can have a negative impact in the quality of life of patients with epilepsy, independent to the seizure frequency and severity. Also, in the presence of mood disorders, patients may be more prone to experience adverse events to their medication. The National Institute for Mental Health suggests watching for these common warning signs and symptoms of depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, "empty" or numb mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Trouble sleeping, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain, that do not respond to routine treatment
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts*

*If you have suicidal thoughts contact your doctor immediately. If it is outside your doctor's normal business hours call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-TALK) or go to the nearest hospital emergency room. Please be aware that you may experience just one or two symptoms above or many. They may be mild or severe. See your doctor if symptoms of depression persist, especially if they start to affect your daily living activities or if you experience severe symptoms.

The important thing to remember is that both epilepsy and depression are treatable and the sooner that you contact your doctor, the sooner you can begin feeling better.


More Information at Your Fingertips:

  • For more information about epilepsy care at Rush visit our Epilepsy Center home page.
  • For more information about other neurosurgical services at Rush visit our Neurosurgery home page.
  • For more information about other neurological services at Rush visit our Neurological Care home page.
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (888 352-7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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Two Diagnoses: Epilepsy and Mood Disorders

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