Epilepsy is one such disease that is the most misunderstood. Television and other forms of media have portrayed this illness in the most cliche manner: a person suddenly falling on the ground, losing consciousness, and starting shaking uncontrollably. This is not incorrect, but when we talk of epilepsy, it goes way beyond just one form of seizure. This is why common misconceptions about epilepsy are numerous, and in this article, we shall look at the most common epilepsy myths and debunk each of them. But before we get to that, let us first understand epilepsy and learn of differences in epilepsy v/s seizure.

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition wherein an individual experiences unprovoked seizures and brought upon by unexpected, sudden, sporadic and intense electrical release of brain cells in the brain. This sudden surge of electrical waves in the brain causes severe seizures and can alter the brain’s normal functioning.

As per a WHO report, out of the total global population, at least 50 million people have epilepsy. Another alarming statistic is that most of these epilepsy patients, at least 80% of the 50 million, reside in middle to low-income countries. You might be wondering why this fact is alarming. In such countries, awareness about this disease is less, and the ancient myths about epilepsy are more prevalent.

This causes a mental burden on the people who have epilepsy, and as research shows, 

“ psychological distress have been reported to have a significant impact on the quality of life of individuals with epilepsy.”

People living with epilepsy are subjected to many societal misconceptions, which has led to too much psychological stress among epilepsy patients, which can cause more harm and lead to severe health conditions.

Difference between Seizure and Epilepsy

The main difference between a seizure and epilepsy lies in the number of occurrences or episodes. In the case of a seizure, the event is just once, or it is just a rare occurrence. However, in epilepsy, there will be many episodes of such electrical discharges in the brain. If you get a single seizure, it is not an indication of epilepsy since a brain injury or a stroke can trigger a seizure. 

Epilepsy Facts and Myths

1- MYTH: Epilepsy, a brain injury, or a stroke that can trigger a seizure means an evil entity has possessed a person.

   FACT: This is an ancient belief that has done a lot of harm. Epilepsy is a neurological illness that requires medical intervention and not an exorcism. It is a condition that requires treatment by epileptologists, neurologists and paediatricians.

2- MYTH: Epilepsy is an infectious disease.

  FACT: Epilepsy is not at all contagious. This is, in fact, one of the oldest myths about epilepsy. The causes of epilepsy are varied, but they cannot be transmitted from one person to the other. 

3- MYTH: Epilepsy is only caused due to a fall.

   FACT: There are numerous causes of epilepsy. Some of the reasons are:

  • Brain injury occurs in the prenatal or postnatal stage.
  • Brain malformation is owing to its origin in genetics.
  • Multiple head injuries.
  • Stroke
  • Brain tumours
  • Certain Genetic Syndromes.
  • Infections on the brain such as encephalitis or meningitis.

4- MYTH: Epilepsy patients are depressed, emotionally immature, and unstable.

    FACT: This is another major misconception about patients who have epilepsy. Yes, it can be challenging to cope with the fact that they can have an episode and a random hour. However, this does not mean that they live in fear or are unhappy. On the contrary, as per research, many people who live with epilepsy have a happy life and are emotionally secure and stable.

  5- MYTH: Epilepsy is a mental sickness.

      FACT: Epilepsy is not a mental sickness. Psychological issues are seen only in patients who have severe epilepsy. However, patients with epilepsy have no mental illness and go about their daily lives like any other normal human being.

6- MYTH: Epilepsy episodes always involve fainting or loss of consciousness and convulsions.

    FACT: According to the Epilepsy Society, Not all seizures or episodes result in convulsions or loss of consciousness. Some people may not experience these as they can either go blank for a few seconds or might just be wandering around while being very hazy and delirious.

7- MYTH: If a person has a seizure, an object must be inserted in their mouth to stop them from biting their tongue.    FACT: This can be very dangerous as the person might injure their jaw muscles and lead to more damage.

 8- MYTH: High beam lights or pointing a flashlight towards the person will induce an epileptic seizure.     FACT: This is not entirely false as there are cases of Photosensitive epilepsy. However, this forms only a meagre percentage, so it does not stand too for all cases of epilepsy. Photosensitive epilepsy occurs only in about 5 per cent of the total epilepsy population.

Now that we have some information about epilepsy and the misconceptions, let us empathise with those who have epilepsy to make the world a better place for them.

To get the best epilepsy treatment, consult with the best neurosurgeon. If anyone you know has epilepsy, you might refer them to Dr Chandril Chugh.