Online Christian Counseling and Opinion

Posts tagged ‘Epilepsy’

Depression is everybody’s problem

The suicide death of so many celebrities and returning military from combat zones brings to the forefront the all too common problem of depression with the often end result of suicide.

We all have seen the many public service announcements by the late Mike Wallace and others who have openly admitted their battle with depression in an effort to shed light on an all too common problem.

With one out of every seven people in the modern world dealing with this very serious mental health issue at some point in their life, there is simply never enough emphasis placed on this condition.

There is so much which can be said about depression and yet the reality is very few people actually attempt to do anything about either their own condition or the condition of a friend or loved one.

Depression is generally defined as, a condition marked by feelings of worthlessness, dejection and worry which is usually accompanied by a state of unhappiness and pessimistic outlook on life.

The depressed person is susceptible to minor states of frustration, feelings of guilt and even occasional paranoia with a tendency to feel they are either a failure or failure prone.

Basically the depressed person develops low self-esteem and an overall feeling of inadequacy.

In more severe cases, depression may result in suicide.

Depression can be brought on by many things including Parkinson disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.

It has now been stated by the wife of the late Robin Williams that he was actually suffering from the early stages of Parkinson which might have contributed to his depression.

As an epileptic, this writer is well aware of the potential of the medication I take as well as the disorder itself which can lead to depression. In fact, my neurologists always ask me on each checkup visit if I am experiencing any depression.

As a child I witnessed the constant depression of my late mother and wanted to know more about the subject which ultimately led to my study of psychology.

Unfortunately, my mother never really recognized she had clinical depression; although it was quite evident to those around her.

For my mother as well as both of my Grandmothers, they simply addressed their problem as being “down in the dumps” or “having the blues”.

Down in the dumps and having the blues doesn’t last a life time but genuine clinical depression can; especially left untreated.

It should be noted here, that there is a clear clinical distinction between a person suffering from what is known as a “neurotic depressive reaction” which might result from a difficult situation or traumatic life event such as a divorce or family member’s death and “psychotic depression”.

“Psychotic depression” includes a variety of widely known depressions known as “manic-depression” and “Bi-polar condition” (which today is often included as one depression type).

Persons diagnosed with a psychotic depression usually have a long history of mood swings and depressed episodes accompanied by extreme paranoia, delusions and hallucinations.

Although both forms of depression are treated similarly, most forms of Psychotic depression require long term use of medication, personal and group psychotherapy and often even in-patient hospitalization.

In short, depression should never be ignored.

In contemporary society, there is simply no need for anyone to suffer with the pain of depression or to inflict in those around us the pain of watching our reactions to difficult and depressed feelings.

With proper psychotherapy and medication most types of depression can be “handled” and most people live a full, healthy and satisfied life.

Available medication, good doctors, neurologist and psychotherapist are usually the easy part.

The difficult part is helping people understand they have a problem and then leading them to seek out the appropriate solution.

Bear in mind, you cannot push a depressed person; it can only make their situation worst.

Most men cover up their feelings and as such seldom admit they’re having any kind of an emotional problem.

Even if their Family doctor prescribes some medication and warns the patient one of the side effects can be depression, many men will simply respond by saying, “it’s nothing I can’t deal with”.

Women usually will seek professional help for depression the quickest due to recognizing and understanding their own feelings.

Unlike men, women openly and easily display their feelings and emotions; any change in that normality seen by themselves or their friends and family often sends up a red flag that something is wrong.

As a result a visit to the doctor, therapist or at the least the best friend or hair stylist is sought to talk things out.

Herein is where depression becomes everybody’s problem.

Women realize for the most part, that “airing out” their feelings or differences helps and often even bring about a solution or complete healing of the depressed state of mine.

Men on the other hand hold it in and are very good at putting up a façade that there is “nothing wrong”.

Teens too, are often good at hiding their true feelings for fear of being “singled out” and made fun of for admitting they have a problem, talking about it to friends and family and seeking the professional help they need.

In over thirty years of counseling, the main reason most people came to me ultimately led back to depression.

Their depression escalated other problems such as marriage and family relationships, employment problems, long time friendships and various forms of sexual dysfunction.

Often depression can affect health problems such as appetite, weight gain or loss, hair loss, visual problems and much more.

Many times it is necessary for a psychologist to refer a patient back to their family doctor in order to eliminate a possible physical problem.

Again, depression is such a huge problem that it is everybody’s problem; it is a personal problem, and your friends’ and family’s problem.

It is your church and pastor’s problem and it is your family doctor and psychotherapist’s problem.

It takes all of us working together to recognize our own depression and/or that of our friends, family and co-workers.

Depression is indeed everybody’s business and my next Christian Counseling article will look at its many warning signs.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

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Video

Epilepsy described

A short video describing epilepsy and prevention

Epileptics be ware

Since many of us participate in various support groups for epilepsy as a means of strength and encouragement we are so excited to find others like ourselves with the same needs and concerns that we don’t give a second thought to the lurking danger of posting and sharing those feelings on line with others in the group.

This past week as I suddenly found my counseling articles on epilepsy being denied posting on Facebook even in a private and closed personal group, I became aware that Facebook has access to all the private conversations posted even in private, closed groups.

It seems that although the general public does not have access to these so called closed groups (which actually aren’t closed at all) Facebook can and does read everything.
The end result is that anything you post about your epilepsy condition or that of a friend or loved one (via Facebook) on line even in a CLOSED group Facebook sees and knows.

Likewise, hackers and trolls can also utilize such information for their own demented purposes.

You should also be aware that Facebook and possibly a few others are not only violating their own privacy policies that each of us are forced to electronically sign and agree with but with regard to anything concerning medical or mental health they also violate the Federal HIPPA guidelines for patient rights and privacy.

As such, I urge each of you to think twice on what and where you post your questions and comments. Consider personal one on one or genuine local support groups. If that isn’t convenient, then select real, genuine web sites such as this one or some of the new social media groups such as GAB.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

Unrecognized Seizure Signals


 
Epilepsy is certainly a disorder of mystery and unpredictability as any epileptic will tell you.

 After ten years being grand mal seizure free, just one day after this past Christmas I found myself waking up in an ambulance from a grand mal seizure in route to the hospital where I encountered a second seizure only three hours later. This has been the worst seizure ever and roughest recovery. After coming home from the hospital, I slept for nearly 3 days and remember almost nothing.

 Although unknown to me until I was fifty-seven years old, I was born an epileptic and had experienced seizures all my life; in fact my grandfather was an epileptic as was his grandfather and his grandfather before him and who knows how far back.

 For those of us older such as me, we grew up in a time when epilepsy had many labels and taboos even linked to mental disorders and demonic possession. As a result, your family or even family doctor might not pursue any detailed medical investigation. In my case, my parents and I were told it was just part of growing up; or so I had always been told. But shortly before my father died, he confided in me that our family doctor had suspected I might have epilepsy but to quote my father, he told “old Doc Holden, there was no way his son was crazy”.

 My father also, didn’t understand that what he witnessed so often in his father as what was called “fits” was actually epileptic seizures as well.

 Although I don’t blame my parents for my epilepsy, it’s very sad to think what just a little more knowledge and information might have done to help me today.

 Since having my first full blown grand mal seizure in 2001, I have made every effort to learn everything I could about epilepsy and how to recognize and avoid the proverbial “seizure triggers” and how to prevent them.

 As most epileptics know the two basics to control and prevention are, 1) take all your meds as prescribed and 2) get at least eight hours sleep every night. In most cases, if an epileptic follows this regiment of treatment the chances of having a seizure are greatly reduced.

 Unfortunately Epilepsy is a neurological disorder and not a disease resulting in the reality that at present there is no cure. The best that can be done at present is the prescribing of a variety of medication, electronic stimulators and surgery. As such the bad news every epileptic receives once diagnosed is “epilepsy is for life”; so your neurologist will instruct you in how to recognize the possibility or the signs of an upcoming seizure.

 Most epileptics are well aware of the most obvious sign of a possible seizure which is the dreaded “aura”. For most of us, we hate the aura worse than the seizure. The seizure strikes and is usually over in just a few minutes but the aura is totally debilitating and can last from a few minutes to several days. Like it or not, the aura is usually a sign of a potential seizure.

 The aura is difficult to describe; especially to non-epileptics.  The average aura time for most epileptics I know is about 15 minutes. My average aura last 24 hours but I have experienced a pre-seizure aura which lasted 2 days and a post-seizure aura which lasted almost a week.

Auras are terrible. They can be mild to migraine headaches, the proverbial “seeing stars”, visualizing “saintly” like glows or halos around people, visualization can take on a yellowish hue as well as the experience of strange sounds and odors.

But the worst aura experience of all for most epileptics is disassociation; the feeling of uncertainty of where you are or what many epileptics describe as the sensation of feeling like you’re in more than one place at a given moment. Some have described it as feeling like you’re here but also somewhere else. Some have likened the experience to a type of “déjàvu”.

The aura often causes an epileptic to lose momentary thought, focus and concentration.

Some research now suggests that due to their debilitating effect on the epileptic, these auras are actually partial seizures. Regardless of what these auras are, they can certainly slow a person down, delay or even force a change or cancellation to plans.

It is important to note that although some epileptics never experience an aura, those that do have different aura experiences. One such experience is “mood change”.

Mood change (which is usually a side effect of anti-seizure medication and not epilepsy) itself is often a signal or precursor to a major seizure. Of great importance is the “Unrecognizable Mood Change”. It might be subtle or it might be drastic. It might not be recognizable to the epileptic patient at all but very noticeable to everyone else. The mood change can begin weeks before the seizure.

As a lifelong epileptic and Christian psychologist I was well aware that mood changes could be a part of epilepsy but as a lifelong epileptic I had never seen myself as having mood changes.  Recently however, my reaction to what I interpreted as a bad smelling slice of ham was actually seen by family members as both irrational and mean spirited. The bottom line is others saw the mood change but I didn’t. In addition my family informed me that over the past forty years I had many similar experiences. 

The bottom line is if you haven’t experienced an epileptic aura, you simply can’t understand but you can try and be observant of the epileptic in your life.

If the epileptic in your life begins demonstrating unusual or a sudden change in behavior, be certain to make them aware of those changes in a very caring and constructive way. You might ask if they have taken all their meds on time or ask how they’re feeling.

If you’re an epileptic, listen to those around you, they might see things happening in you that you don’t see in yourself and if you listen carefully you might prevent a seizure or even save your life.

Let others help you recognize the unrecognizable signals in you.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

 

Six overlooked conditions of Epilepsy

MLREPIL (Large)Six overlooked conditions of Epilepsy

 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

As I begin the new section of Drtruthman Christian Counseling and Opinion dedicated to Epilepsy titled, “Epilepsy in plain sight”, I will attempt to address areas of this neurological condition which are usually obvious but often neglected in general epilepsy diagnosis and discussion.

These associate conditions include:

  1. Heightened emotions
  2. Decreased touch sensitivity (aka ”Depakote dropsy”)
  3. Increased or decreased libido
  4. Verbal rambling
  5. Momentary memory loss
  6. OCS ( a type of OCD)

Crying man

Heightened emotions

Very few epileptics ever talk about this subject with either their support team or their neurologist; especially men. It usually happens while watching a movie or television program and you find yourself suddenly caught up in the movie and become either extremely angry or crying like a baby with usually more of the latter.

This Pseudobulbar affect (or more commonly known as PBA), or emotional incontinence, is a type of emotional disturbance characterized by uncontrollable episodes of crying and/or laughing, or other emotional displays. PBA occurs as secondary to an existing neurologic disorder or brain injury. Although more commonly associated with Parkinson, MS and stroke victims, PBA has become increasingly reported among epileptics; possibly because of new epilepsy medications or simply because patients haven’t always reported the condition.

These uncontrollable episodes of crying and/or laughing, or other emotional displays seem to happen at the most inopportune times.  It happens at family events, church, patriotic events and even for no reason at all. I have found myself sometime blubbering like a baby just hearing someone pray or me giving the family Thanksgiving blessing or my favorite sports team winning.

There doesn’t have to be any rhyme or reason for these heightened emotions occurring.

I do know this; I am a genetic, grand general epileptic. I was born with epilepsy and I can have any kind of seizure at any time but my problem with heightened emotions didn’t start until I was put on anti-seizure medication in 1999 and I have been on three different medications.

It depends on your anti-seizure medication as to the extent of the increase in your emotions being heightened but from the epileptics I have professionally counseled over the years it seems to happen to all of us as epileptics.

It doesn’t have to be just anger or sorrowful emotions either; it can also be manic emotion such as uncontrollable laughter, frivolity and whimsical behavior.

At this point, you have to be careful should you decide to report this to your neurologist, GP or Psychotherapist; the reason being that heightened manic emotions can also mask epilepsy in some psychotic disorders such as certain types of Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

With regard to schizophrenia there are two common sub-types which would seem to mimic The Pseudobulbar affect:  1) neophrenia; a deranged neurosis or psychosis which has often been associated with early onset schizophrenia where an individual finds everything funny and laughs sometimes uncontrollably and 2) hebephrenia; a syndrome characterized by shallow and inappropriate giggling (or laughing), and silly regressive behavior and mannerisms; this has now been renamed disorganized schizophrenia.

Another important fact to remember is that most ant-seizure medications are also used for controlling certain types of Bipolar and schizophrenic behavior.  As a result, there is some indication that the conditions these medications help to control in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia might actually have the reverse effect on epileptics causing medical and mental health professionals to overlook the epilepsy connection and jump right to the neurotic and psychotic diagnostic categories.

Even though it can be a somewhat frightening thought to have your epilepsy re-diagnosed as a psychological disorder, it is still always best to consult your neurologist with concerns about heightened emotions. It might be as simple as changing your medication dosage or even changing your anti-seizure medication completely.

But once again, with regard to the information provided, choose your words carefully.

Closely associated with an epileptic’s heightened emotions is the second condition of Decreased touch sensitivity (aka ”Depakote dropsy”) which will be discussed in the next article of “Epilepsy in plain sight”.

© 2018 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

I am an Epileptic

 

Having been one all my life, it is sometimes easy to overlook the fact that I am indeed an epileptic.

I am on medication and live a fairly normal life. I do most everything that non-epileptic people do; in fact after eleven years and seven attorneys attempting to get this “Grand General Epileptic” disability, the state and federal governments denied such because they declared that I was a “functional epileptic”.

“Functional epileptic”, is there really such a thing? That’s a topic for another discussion.

None the less, most epileptics will tell you it’s not necessarily the seizure that’s the great concern but everything leading up to and afterwards such as pre and post seizure auras that are truly debilitating and hinder the ability to “be normal”.  

For the non-epileptic, it’s important to note that epileptic auras are for most, more dreaded than the seizure itself and like a seizure they can occur unexpectedly at any time with or without medication with no reason as to the cause.  

One thing for certain is that there is nothing fun about an aura. They can last from a few minutes to hours or even days. The average aura time for most epileptics I know is about 15 minutes. My average aura last 24 hours but I have experienced a pre-seizure aura which lasted 2 days and a post-seizure aura which lasted almost a week.

Auras are terrible. They can be mild to migraine headaches, the proverbial “seeing stars”, visualizing “saintly” like glows or halos around people, visualization can take on a yellowish hue as well as experiencing  strange sounds and odors.

But the worst aura experience of all for most epileptics is dissociation; the feeling of uncertainty of where you are or what many epileptics describe as a sensation of being in multiple places at the same time. Some have suggested it is like you’re here but also somewhere else. The bottom line is if you haven’t experienced it, you simply can’t understand.

The aura often causes an epileptic to lose momentary thought, focus and concentration.

Some research now suggests that due to their debilitating effect on the epileptic, these auras are actually partial seizures. Regardless of what these auras are, they can certainly slow a person down, delay or even force a change or cancellation to plans.

It is important to note here that some epileptics never experience an aura.

In addition to the auras and seizures, there is also the emotional trauma sitting in the epileptics unconscious mind constantly asking the question, “Will I have a seizure today”? And “If I have a seizure today, what kind will it be”?  

Those questions usually give rise to more questions which give rise to more questions such as, “Since I feel kind of strange today, should I go out in public and chance having a seizure away from home”? If you drive, “Should I try to drive today and possibly have an accident or even hurt or kill someone”?

“I’m feeling constantly sleepy, do I need sleep or am I trying to pass out and seize” and “if I take a little nap, will I have a sleep or wakeup seizure”? “Should I go to the ER or should I call my neurologist or am I just being silly and paranoid”?

Although life for everyone is filled with uncertainties, for the epileptic these uncertainties become magnified.

For this epileptic, the past month had gone very well; between my medications of Depakote and CBD oil I was stable and feeling great. I had gone to church, out to eat, a birthday party or two and even driving during day light hours. Being an epileptic simply wasn’t on my radar and didn’t seem to matter.

Then suddenly out of nowhere last Saturday, I experienced the worst aura since 2008. My hands and arms shaking, visualization suddenly yellowed, found myself staring for long moments into space, then the dreaded feeling of disassociation; the feeling of being in two separate places at once.

The feeling was horrible and quite frightening. The last time I had an aura that intense was prior to a “Grand Mal” seizure while driving in 2008. There was nobody hurt and no damage except to my van which was totaled. Thank God a police officer witnessed the entire thing and called the paramedics who took me to the ER immediately.

That recent Saturday aura suddenly brought me back to reality reminding me that I am an epileptic.

Then this very morning, with plans in process, my day is interrupted by having a moderate morning wakeup seizure with a traumatic follow up post-seizure aura destroying both my plans for the day and possibly my future.

It is totally debilitating, destructive and often humiliating (as it was for me today), this thing we call epilepsy.

But once again, I am an epileptic and as most neurologists tell us, we can have a seizure at any moment of any day; unfortunately for some repeatedly throughout the day.

Cancelled plans and appointments, inability to keep commitments, feelings of inadequacies and indecisiveness, frustration and associated depression; all associated with epilepsy.

Take the meds as prescribed, get eight hours sleep, try and avoid naps and seizure causing meds and still a seizure and/or an aura is possible.

I can never forget I am an epileptic.

© 2017 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD