Epilepsy Psychiatry

The Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is devoted to caring for patients living with epilepsy and other seizure disorders. The center is made up of a multidisciplinary team, which includes psychologists and social workers who are committed to treating the full range of epilepsy symptoms.

Changes in mood are common in epilepsy. This is due to not only the negative circumstances created by epilepsy, but also the epilepsy itself interfering with proper brain function, the side effects of epilepsy medications, a lack of proper sleep and many other factors.

Feelings of anxiety and depression are most common, but individuals with epilepsy can also have difficulty regulating mood, and may feel angry or irritable. All of these symptoms are common and treatable, and group therapy can be helpful by allowing you to share your experience with other people who have epilepsy, learn coping strategies and find comfort in talking to others who are having similar experiences.

Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon. If you are having suicidal thoughts, notify your medical provider right away.

For mood factors that may need more individualized attention, individual psychotherapy may be best. The first step in this type of therapy is an assessment of mood and personality factors, which will give your care team a clearer picture of what you may be struggling with. Based on these results, your team will establish a treatment plan.

Most of the time, targeted cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is determined to be an appropriate first step. CBT is a very effective treatment that teaches skills to change thoughts and behaviors in a way that improves mood and feelings. Depending on the patient and the problem, CBT with medications (such as an antidepressant) may be recommended.

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