Psychological effects of epilepsy on children

Epilepsy is a disease that affects the nervous system. Around 750,000 children were diagnosed with epilepsy in the United States as of 2013. The disorder is markedly distinguished by the trademark seizures that is causes. Obviously, this can be quite problematic for anyone, but children are so much more vulnerable to the glares of onlookers and the trauma that a seizure brings with it.

Limits

Often, family members and parents will want to place restrictions on children who are diagnosed with epilepsy. Understandably, they are just trying to help. Limiting what the child can engage in can indeed help to reduce their chances of a seizure. However, it will also limit them in other areas of their life that can further diminish how happy they are and how they feel about themselves. Parents often try to help their children survive the public culture as a child with epilepsy by encasing them in an invisible bubble, but this really doesn’t serve them well in the long run. These children will still have epilepsy when they are adults, and they’ll need to know how to deal with it in both private and public environments. Sheltering them from those experiences may seem like second nature, but it’s hindering their development at the same time.

Depression in Children

Just like in adults with epilepsy, children with the disease are more likely to suffer from depression than children without it. Rates of depression have been seen in populations of epileptic children as high as 39.6 percent. One of the most disturbing side effects of depression in our nation’s youth is suicide. Children with epilepsy are at a greater risk of both suicidal thoughts and attempts at suicide.

Knowing the signs of depression in a child with epilepsy is the first step to getting them help. Often, it is up to caregivers, parents and close friends to take note of what’s going on and bring it to a doctor’s attention. Children who are depressed often don’t even recognize that they are anything but sad and dissatisfied with their life. They may be lethargic and show a lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed. Otherwise, the symptoms of depression are a bit more subdued in kids than they are in adults. Depressed children often become more introverted, which can easily be mistaken as a side effect of suffering with epilepsy.

The Anxious Child

Anxiety presents differently in children than it does in adults. Most of the time, an anxious child will act out in ways that are abnormal for him or her. They may lash out at loved ones, resort to petty crimes or even start throwing fits resembling tantrums in an attempt to make them feel heard. A lot of children with epilepsy begin to fear public places and go on to develop agoraphobia — a disorder that makes them fear public places on a phobic level. Some will develop panic disorders. Others will take on obsessive-compulsive tendencies as a way of trying to cope with the symptoms of their disease. The anxious child may frequently respond to startling or traumatic events by shutting down and going into fight or flight mode. It is important that parents and loved ones take note of these behaviors.

Cite this page: Danielle Bosley, "Psychological effects of epilepsy on children," in PsychologyDictionary.org, January 30, 2017, https://psychologydictionary.org/article/psychological-effects-of-epilepsy-on-children/ (accessed September 14, 2019).
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