Stress is a very common trigger for seizures in epileptics. Although, what may be stressful to one person may not be stressful to another, as stress is unique to each person. Disturbed sleep and an increased risk of anxiety or depression are known to trigger seizures. Stress releases hormones in areas of the brain that respond to stress, which in return can trigger a seizure. Getting a handle on stress is very important as part of seizure management.
Stress: The Robber of Sleep
Stress is a major health factor that everyone faces. While stress can certainly cause you to be uncomfortable, tense and even irritable, it is easy to overlook the impact of stress on our sleep. Stress can cause restless sleep or extreme difficulty falling asleep. Stress may lead to tossing and turning or even nightmares. Stress can also make you wake up early. If you have been sleeping poorly, it is important to look at your stress levels to see if stress reduction techniques could help you to sleep better.
Compounding the Issue: Anxiety
Anxiety can occur after being in a constant state of stress. Stress and anxiety often go hand-in-hand and can be difficult to manage. You may have feelings of helplessness and feel trapped in an endless cycle of stress and anxiety. You may become even more fatigued as time goes on. Stress, anxiety and poor sleep quality can leave you prone to depression. Together, these conditions can lead to an increased risk of stress seizures.
When Stress Leads to Depression
Never ending fatigue, sleepless nights and feeling on edge can certainly leave you blue. Stress-induced seizure activity can also lead to depressed moods. Now you may feel trapped in an impossible cycle of poor health, increased seizures and depression. Even worse, depression can lead to poor medication compliance. This is a huge warning sign for epileptics to get help. It is critical to keep medications at a constant level in your bloodstream to reduce the likelihood of seizures. If you are feeling depressed or anxious and not sticking to your medications, it is important to talk with a health care provider about ways to manage your stress, anxiety and depression.
Stress Hormones: Seizure Triggers
When you are under stress, your endocrine system releases a variety of hormones to mitigate stress responses. The primitive response of fight or flight may kick in. When this happens, the stress hormone, norepinephrine, is released into the bloodstream and the heart rate increases, hyperventilation occurs and brain activity is heightened. Now, the areas of the brain that activate stress responses are the same areas that are prone to seizure activity. That is why it is critical that epileptics practice stress reduction techniques or change their lifestyles. Hyperventilation alone can cause changes within the body that can lead to increased seizure activity.
Stress Reduction Techniques
While stress is a part of everyday life, you can learn to help to relieve the symptoms of stress through enjoyable hobbies, good health habits, meditation and being selective about the amount of activities in your calendar. If you feel you need help to manage your stress, talk with your health care provider. The best management for stress is prevention, so learning to take care of yourself is useful to reducing your seizures.
Stress and Epilepsy. (n.d.). Retrieved August 28, 2015, from http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/triggers-seizures/stress-and-epilepsy
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