Many people with epilepsy experience normal healthy relationships, that is, their epilepsy does not significantly affect their relationships.
However, it is common for people with significant chronic health conditions, like epilepsy, to experience some challenges and fears with their relationships, especially when forming new relationships. This is particularly the case if people have experienced negative reactions to their epilepsy. Unfortunately, epilepsy is often misunderstood by people who are not familiar with the condition. So, it is common and understandable for people with epilepsy to be concerned about how others might react to their condition.
Some common fears and difficulties experienced include:
- Uncertainty and fear about how one’s family and friends will respond to their diagnosis.
- Worries surrounding being a burden on family and friends or not being able to look after their family.
- Concerns that potential partners will not want to be in a relationship with someone with epilepsy.
- Fears that other people will judge them negatively or reject them if they witness a seizure
Some common things that increase fears and difficulties include:
- Seizure beginning at a young age, which may restrict opportunities for socialising and developing social skills such as missing schooling or not attending school camps or activities.
- Parents, family or friends being overprotective and putting excessive restrictions on socialising.
- Restrictions to socialising as an adolescent and adult such as inability to drive, stay out late (e.g. partying) or consume alcohol.
- Having a poor understanding of epilepsy or difficulties building a life around epilepsy.
- Uncertainty and fears surrounding how, when and who to disclose a diagnosis of epilepsy to.
Some things that people find helpful include:
- Educating significant others about epilepsy and seizures.
- Having an active, open and assertive communication style
- Seeking social support when needed e.g., asking others for help.
- Feeling comfortable and prepared to disclose epilepsy.