Distributed Neuron Blog

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Facts, myths and misconceptions about epilepsy

July 25th, 2014

Epilepsy is a condition of the brain characterized by seizures. Epilepsy is not curable but seizures can be controlled with medication.

epilepsu disorderA common misconception says epilepsy is a mental illness. False, epilepsy is not a mental illness. It is a condition.

It’s a common myth that people having seizures can swallow their tongue which is absolutely impossible.


But myths and misconceptions about epilepsy can be dangerous sometimes. For example some people think that you should force something in the mouth of someone having a seizure to prevent him from swallowing his tongue.

That’s not a good idea. And if you do that most probably you’ll puncture the person’s gums, chip teeth or even break the person’s jaw. It really is a dangerous thing to do. But what should you? Well, you should put something soft under his head and put him on one side. It’s the best you could do.

But maybe the most dangerous myth is that that a person having seizure should be restrained. It is a dangerous thing to do. Restraint a person who has a seizure won’t make things better, most probably worse as you might injure that person.

People with epilepsy often experience stigma as some people believe those with epilepsy are cursed or possessed by evil spirits and many believe to be contagious. In the early 1970 people with epilepsy were locked away because of that and people with epilepsy were prevented from marrying. But epilepsy is definitely not contagious.

Many people also believe that people diagnosed with epilepsy are disabled and can’t work or have a normal life. Actually epilepsy has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence or abilities.

Anyway, some people with epilepsy who have severe seizures can’t work but most of the people with epilepsy are able to develop successful careers. Jerry Kill, the coach of Minnesota Gophers has epilepsy and he is doing a great job. Some of his seizures occurred during games with thousands of people watching.

Another problem with epilepsy is driving and swimming. Doctors have to report any person they believe could be a danger to other motorists or even themselves when driving. But most people with epilepsy who treat their condition can drive. Also they can swim and can even make great athletes.

Epilepsy comes in various and different forms. Some are more severe while others are less severe. Epilepsy is not the same in everyone contrary to the myth that epilepsy is the same in everyone.

It also comes against the common belief that convulsions are always involved in epilepsy. Actually there are more than 40 types of epilepsy with different symptoms.

This Short Video Will Give You A Better Idea of Epilepsy

Also the belief that you can’t die from epilepsy is a myth too. Some forms of epilepsy are so severe that they may cause death and prolonged seizures cause thousands of deaths each year in the US.

The belief that only children get epilepsy is false. 65 years old people get epilepsy almost as often as children.

Epilepsy is a rare condition? No, not at all. It’s just a myth. One in 26 people in the US have epilepsy. Each year in Australia, approximately 25.000 people are diagnosed with epilepsy. So, unfortunately it’s not rare at all.

So, you might have the condition or you could be around someone having a seizure. It’s not a good idea to act according to myths or what you heard. You should rather ask for specialized assistance of a neurologist for treatment and deeper understating of the condition.