Epilepsy and Adolescents
Synopsis: The adolescent stage of life is hard and complex to understand and it becomes a delicate time as well when a person has epilepsy.1
Author: Disabled World
Published: 2013-12-13 Updated: 2016-03-21
Epilepsy is the most frequent neurological disorder in adolescence and around 2% of the adolescent population will experience the disorder. For these adolescents, epilepsy has an incredible impact on this stage of their lives. Often times, the seizures are not preceded by any symptoms and may occur at any time.
Leisure, sport, and free time are not triggers for a seizure, but a person in their adolescent years may be frightened that these activities might provoke a seizure. The belief can only worsen the situation. A teenager might feel that they have no control over their own life and on a number of occasions may demonstrate poor behavior and thoughts to their fellow students, with friends, at work, or with family members. Doing so will have an impact on their person, work, and social situation.
Many times, a teenager with epilepsy has been over-protected and has had limited exposure to new activities to help with their education, something that makes it harder for them to manage the epilepsy they experience. The situation worsens during puberty when they begin to make their first mistakes. On occasion, they are restricted by family members or teachers due to excessive worry or ignorance concerning epilepsy. The adolescent stage of life is hard enough of itself and complex to understand. It becomes a delicate time when a person has epilepsy as well.
Chart showing causes of increased risk of seizures in teenagers
Adolescent psychology is influenced by the more or less traumatic emergence of the need to assert a person's identity and independence. At this stage of development there are nights out that may include lights, alcohol, a lack of sleep and more. Both alcohol and drugs greatly increase the risk of experiencing a seizure. There might also be side-effects because the alcohol and drugs are being mixed with prescription medications.
Lack of sleep alone may provoke a seizure. Not having enough sleep can be so bad for a person that they are stopped from going out and enjoying themselves. Generally, a person should sleep between 7 and 9 hours each night, but it is not strictly necessary.
Of the different types of epilepsy between 2 and 4% are photosensitive. Only those who have photosensitive epilepsy need to take precautions. These precautions include not watching television in the dark, working with protective screens on computers, and avoiding sparkling lights.
At times teenagers present a defiance against the, 'enforced decline,' imposed by epilepsy medication. A teenager might demonstrate this through irritability, anger, or challenging behavior that is hard to manage. Other teenagers with epilepsy exhibit social isolation. It is important that a teenager with epilepsy know their disorder and limitations and have the ability to accept the epilepsy they experience in order to improve their quality of life.
Chart showing areas of life epilepsy affects in teenagers
While seizures are one of the most common neurologic issues in adolescence, diagnosis and management of seizures in teenagers can be challenging. Seizures may be secondary to an underlying illness or to a genetically based epilepsy syndrome. The first task of a clinician is to properly diagnose and evaluate. The second task is to determine whether treatment with anti-seizure medications is necessary and if it is, which medication is the most appropriate for the person and have the least impact on their quality of life. The newer medications allow a clinician more flexibility to treat not only epilepsy, but also any co-existing medical conditions in the person.
The impact of epilepsy on the quality of a teenager's life cannot be overestimated. Epilepsy affects a teenager's peer interactions, social life, education, career decisions, driving ability and much more. Communication with the teenager in regards to the effects of epilepsy may have on these issues is vital. While treating the seizures and all of the ramifications of the diagnosis is challenging, most teenagers can achieve the main goals of therapy - freedom from seizures and a high quality of life.
For teenagers with epilepsy, excessive sleep, fatigue, and difficulties with getting started on tasks were all described as barriers to social and academic pursuits. Emotional distress to include depression, sadness, anger and frustration were all heightened because of the unpredictability of seizures and the loss of control of their bodies. Teenagers with epilepsy experience a profound sense of social isolation. The cognitive and academic domain they experience is characterized by learning that is often disrupted.
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