For people suffering with epilepsy, facing stressful events such as the war, trauma or natural disaster, or the death of a loved one, may act as a common trigger for seizures, a study has found.
Epilepsy is a disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing seizures.
The findings showed that higher anxiety levels in patients with epilepsy reported stress as a seizure trigger.
Stress can not only increase seizure susceptibility and in rare cases a form of reflex epilepsy, but also increase the risk of the development of epilepsy, especially when stressors are severe, prolonged, or experienced early in life, the researchers said.
"Stress is a subjective and highly individualised state of mental or emotional strain. Although it's quite clear that stress is an important and common seizure precipitant, it remains difficult to obtain objective conclusions about a direct causal factor for individual epilepsy patients," said Heather McKee, Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati.
For the study, appearing in the journal Seizure, the team looked at 21 studies from the 1980s to present — from patients who kept diaries of stress levels and correlation of seizure frequency, to tracking seizures after major life events, to FMRI studies that looked at responses to stressful verbal/auditory stimuli.
Most of the studies showed increases in seizure frequency after high-stress events such as the war, trauma or natural disaster, or the death of a loved one.
Adopting stress reduction techniques "could improve overall quality of life and reduce seizure frequency at little to no risk," the researchers noted.
Some low risk stress reduction techniques may include controlled deep breathing, relaxation or mindfulness therapy, as well as exercise, or establishing routines.