Anxiety is something that we all feel from time to time. However, sometimes anxiety can become overwhelming and potentially lead to anxiety disorders such as GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) and SAD (social anxiety disorder).
When someone lives with these forms of anxiety disorders, they may experience numerous symptoms which can take over their body and mind. But is it possible for anxiety to cause a seizure?
In short, yes it can – but there’s a lot of caveats to this and a whole lot of information you will need to know, particularly the relationship between stress, anxiety and even epilepsy.
So, our guide examines all of these things and more. If you’re ready to learn a lot more – then read on below for all the answers.
Stress And Anxiety
Both stress and anxiety exist on the same plane, with some saying that they are two sides of the same coin. Stress is a natural human response that helps to warn us that there are threats around us – acting like a protective feeling.
However, anxiety is the body and mind’s response to stress. Stress generally is only felt for a short time, but when stress is prolonged, it can become a chronic problem and cause significant problems in your life.
What Is Stress?
When we are under physical or mental challenges, such as worries regarding money or we feel we are in impending danger, our bodies respond by releasing two chemicals; cortisol and adrenaline.
This is often known as the “fight or flight” response and it’s perfectly normal. When we feel stress, we notice symptoms like an increased heart rate, a higher blood pressure and the feeling of “jitters” through additional energy.
Indeed, these responses can even reduce glucose levels in the blood and suppress your body’s other systems like digestive or reproductive so you are best placed to deal with the threat you face.
Once the cause of the stress has passed, your body will respond by going back to its state before the threat existed.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is your body’s response to stress and while for a large number of people, the feeling of anxiety will come and go as normal, other people can live with anxiety disorders which can cause excessive and persistent symptoms of anxiety that do not easily go away.
Some anxiety disorders can lead to things like acute anxiety, extreme fear and episodes of panic attacks. Panic attacks can be dangerous and they manifest themselves with heavy, uncontrolled breathing, light sensitivity, chest pains and even blackouts.
Some people often confuse a panic attack with a heart attack, as the symptoms are similar in many ways. However, other symptoms of anxiety can be things like:
- Tummy problems
- Lack of concentration
While a large number of these symptoms above can be managed in numerous ways like exercise, hydrotherapy, holistic medicines, sleep therapy and more – panic attacks are among the most severe and medical intervention may be necessary.
Can Panic Attacks Cause Seizures?
Many of the symptoms of a panic attack mimic those of seizures. However, it is entirely possible for a panic attack (caused by anxiety) to lead to a seizure. This type of seizure is what is known as a non-epileptic seizure (NES).
However, it’s also possible for panic attacks to cause epileptic seizures, if you are already living with epilepsy. Every situation is different, so for more tailored and precise medical information, you’d need to contact your GP.
In order to determine which type of seizure has occurred, doctors will need to perform an ECG (electrocardiogram) and an EEG (electroencephalogram). The first test monitors the heart behaviour and the latter monitors brain activity.
Other serious signs that you may experience when you have a panic attack include things like:
- Hot flashes or severe chills
- Painful chest aches or a “squeeze” feeling
- Tingling in your fingers and toes
- Disassociation with reality (outer-body experience)
Is Anxiety And Stress Connected To Epilepsy?
From what we have said above, you may begin to wonder if there is a connection between anxiety, stress and epilepsy. Well, it’s critical to note that seizure triggers and seizure causes are two different things.
Triggers are the things that can bring on a seizure, but the cause is literally the root cause. Think of it this way – sleep deprivation would be a trigger, but a head injury could be the cause. Indeed, the leading cause of seizures is generally a head or brain injury.
Epilepsy is the term used to explain the tendency to have more than one seizure that is unexplained. Once someone has had more than one seizure, they are typically diagnosed with epilepsy.
Stress and anxiety on the other hand can cause (see also: Can Anxiety Cause Abnormal EKG?)the symptoms which mimic a seizure without the requirement of an excessive electrical brain activity. These types of seizures are known as non-epileptic seizures.
As we mentioned earlier though, if you already have epilepsy – anxiety can be the trigger to an epileptic seizure. This is known as a co-morbid condition, essentially living with the two.
How Can Anxiety And Stress Be Treated And Managed?
While some people will need to speak with a medical professional for their symptoms, there are numerous ways that other people can manage their symptoms at home.
Eating a nutritious diet and engaging in regular, controlled exercise is one such way that you could potentially treat your symptoms. However, you may wish to try your hand at herbal teas, hydrotherapy, sleep therapy or other holistic medicines.
The fact is, there are different treatments for different people – so it really depends on what is best for you. Consider speaking with your GP though and ask for their advice first.
The Bottom Line
Anxiety can be the trigger for a seizure, so it’s important to try to manage your symptoms as much as possible. If you are ever worried – speak with your GP for much more tailored advice.