Historically, when it comes to health, men have not been very good advocates for their own cause.
Epilepsy can be associated with unique, gender specific challenges related to sexual health, mood and self image. This differs from person to person, but certainly gender can be a factor on how epilepsy affects someone.
Men and Epilepsy
The impact of epilepsy can differ between genders across the ages. For instance:
- Males quote driving, physical activity limitations and financial worries as their main concern compared to females who worry more about pregnancy and fatigue
- Both men and women with epilepsy tend to have slightly different problems with reproduction
- Males pursue epilepsy surgery more actively
- Males have a higher rate of status epilepticus, sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) and death compared to females.
Changes because of epilepsy
Being diagnosed with epilepsy will no doubt change a number of aspects in life.
Sometimes this will be short term, sometimes longer.
Some life changes that you may have to adapt to include:
- Change in role – possibly within the family and/or the workplace. This can be a challenge if you are no longer able to work or drive. Major role changes can affect your self-esteem, cause anxiety, and/or depression, contribute to relationship problems, and higher degrees of personal stress. It may also cause difficulties in planning a future.
- Change in employment – Seizures may force someone with epilepsy to have to change jobs or reconsider their work role significantly. Losing your drivers license can be a big contributor to this. This can lead to financial hardship, unhappiness, depression or mood changes.
- Unemployment – can be up to two to three times that of the general population and can often happen suddenly if there are significant safety concerns, especially if a seizure occurs in the workplace.
- Underemployment – because of safety concerns or undue concerns about seizures, or difficulty finding employment, people are often employed in a position lower than what they can perform – providing less income and less self-assurance.
- Change in income – financial struggles increase stress and ultimately affect health. A diagnosis of epilepsy can not only cause employment changes, it can lead to increased costs related to medical tests, doctors’ visits medications and possibly transport.
- Loss of drivers licence – this can have an enormous impact on role, employment, social life and life in general. It can cause social isolation and dependence on others.
- Social life – Drinking habits and late nights usually need to be modified – which can impact on social activities and peer acceptance, particularly in young men. This may cause feelings of anger, resentment, denial and social isolation – which can also lead to non-compliance with a healthy lifestyle and taking medications as prescribed.
These changes don’t apply to everyone and aren’t necessarily long term, they may be temporary until you have your seizures well managed.
Your doctor will put you on an antiepileptic medication to control the seizures. Sometimes it can take several weeks or months before the best medication and dose are determined for you. During this time, it is worth keeping a diary of your seizures, symptoms and any medication side-effects you experience.
If you feel your medication is not working for you, or you have side effects that impact your life, raise this with your doctor so you can work together to find the best treatment. There are many different medications used for epilepsy.
Read more here – Medical Management of Epilepsy
- Sex drive – Many people with epilepsy report some change in sexual desire (libido) or activity as a result of their epilepsy. The most common change is a general lessening of sexual interest and activity. Many other factors can be involved in loss of libido including depression, anxiety, seizures and medications.
- Impotence – some medications may cause erectile dysfunction in men. This can be discussed with your specialist and medications can be changed if this is found to be the cause.
Some people with epilepsy can have difficulties with self-esteem. They can feel self conscious about having epilepsy and worry about having seizures in public. Other things that can affect self esteem include a fear of being judged or discriminated against, and the loss of independence.
The effects of low self esteem can include:
- General life dissatisfaction
- Depression, anxiety
- Loss of confidence
- Sexual problems
There are ways you can improve your quality of life and self esteem. Don’t focus on what you can’t change, look at what you can change.
- Seizure control
It is important to take your medications as prescribed and make some lifestyle changes to improve your chances of good seizure control.
- Identify seizure triggers
Try to identify what circumstances can bring on your seizures. Common reported triggers are missing medication, stress, lack of sleep or over-tiredness, certain drugs or medications, alcohol, sickness, or you may have your own specific triggers. Keep a diary of your seizures and the circumstances in which they happen. This can identify patterns and things that may be setting off your seizures. When you understand this, it is a good start to avoiding situations that may cause your seizures.
- Go through the motions
It’s normal to go through feeling shocked, angry and devastated that you have epilepsy. A range of emotions, mood swings, turmoil and confusion are a part of accepting the condition. It can be a difficult condition to predict and know what is going to happen. Find someone to talk to, a support group or online community, share it with your partner or close friends or find a professional. You can also call us for advice and guidance.
- Be active
Exercise and being active is good for your mental and physical health, reduces stress and improves sexual function. Keep busy and continue your normal activities (unless your doctor suggests it’s unsafe, or find other activities that you can enjoy). Keeping active takes the focus off worrying about your seizures and is good for your overall health.
- Keep Healthy
Eat well and get enough sleep. People report they have fewer seizures when they lead a healthy lifestyle. When you first start taking medication it may make you feel tired. This is common and your body should adjust to this, but try not to keep too many late nights and avoid too much alcohol. Read more here in our Self Management Factsheet
- Be safe
Especially if seizures are not under control. Think about potential situations around the home, workplace or during activities. Try to avoid situations that could be catastrophic if a seizure occurs – such as swimming alone, surfing, scuba diving, working at heights or with machinery. See our Safety Fact Sheet for more information.
- Learn about epilepsy
Learning about epilepsy is the first step to taking control, moving on, improving and managing your disease effectively. The more you know the easier it will be to put the fears and misconceptions of having epilepsy into perspective.
Make a list of questions and keep a diary of your seizures. These will help you learn more about your epilepsy and what triggers your seizures. It also aids the neurologist in deciding appropriate management.
For more information:
Our factsheet has a lot more Factsheet – Men and Epilepsy