Despite scientific advances, it is unfortunate that, even today, there are fears, misunderstandings, discrimination and socialstigma surrounding a person with epilepsy.
- Epilepsy a very rare disorder
No. Epilepsy is not a very rare disorder. It affects 50 million people worldwide. In India, epilepsy has been identified as a public health problem. It is found to be the second leading problem affecting the brain in both the urban and rural populations. It is estimated that in India (with a population of more than 1 billion), there are 6—10 million people with epilepsy.
- People with epilepsy are mentally ill
No. Epilepsy is not the same asmental illness and, in fact, the majority of people with seizures do not develop mental health problems. There may be associated mood problems like anxiety or depression in a patient with epilepsy on account of their disease and associated issues. Equating epilepsy with madness is wrong.
- People with epilepsy are violent or crazy
No. The belief that people with epilepsy are violent is an unfortunate image that is both wrong and destructive. People with epilepsy have no greater tendency toward severe irritability and aggressive behaviours than other people.
Many features of seizures and their immediate after effects can be easily misunderstood as "crazy" or"violent" behaviour. During seizures, some people may not respond to questions, may speak gibberish, undress, repeat a word or phrase, crumple important papers, or may appear frightened and scream. Some are confused immediately after a seizure and if they are restrained or prevented from moving about, they can become agitated and combative. However, once the attack is over, they return to normal and usually display normal behaviour in between attacks.
- Children with epilepsy are dull
Except for children who are born with obvious mental handicaps, children with epilepsy have normal intelligence and should be encouraged by parents and teachers to attend school and complete their education.
- Epilepsy is a curse or wrath of God
No. It is unfortunate that, even today, we have to face such questions. Epilepsy has nothing to do with curses, possession or other supernatural processes, such as punishment for past sins. Like asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure, epilepsy is a medical problem of the brain and can affect anyone irrespective of his/her deeds.
- Epilepsy spreads through touching or coughing
No, epilepsy does not spread through touching or coughing. People who are having an attack need help and the onlookers should not refrain from helping the person because of such irrational beliefs.
- Use of an onion, metal, etc., helps in terminating an ongoing epileptic attack
No. Some people think that an epileptic attack can be terminated by making the person smell onions or dirty shoes, or by placing a metal key in the person’s hand. These are irrational beliefs. Relatives, friends and teachers of people with epilepsy should beaware of the measures to be taken during an epileptic attack.
- Epilepsy medications are ineffective
No. Epilepsy medicines of are very essential for the control of epileptic attacks and should not be neglected. The complete treatment should be discussed with your treating doctor and the treatment should be adhered to.
- Marriage is a cure for epilepsy
No. Marriage is an important aspect of life but not a cure for epilepsy.
- Life of a person with epilepsy is miserable
No. Life of a person with epilepsy can be very manageable and very similar to life of people without epilepsy provided you have a positive approach towards life. Very important aspect in managing the epilepsy is embracing the treatment as an integral part of your life. Daily intake of medicines can sometimes put you down. However, do not let this affect your life. Taking medicine daily can be equated to taking your food daily. Now “Do you forget to take food or do you feel bad about taking food daily?” Then, why is this attitude towards medicines?
- Epilepsy is a hindrance in leading a happy and successful life
No. People with epilepsy can live a happy and successful life. With the advent of newer medicines, availability of medical care and increased awareness of the condition, it has become possible for a person with epilepsy to lead a good life. There are many famous poets, writers and sportsmen with epilepsy who have excelled in their respective fields. Positive approach towards the problems in life is a key for success and contentment. Our negative outlook towards the disease should be challenged and this will certainly help people lead a normal and happy life.