April 26, 2014 | By Epilepsy Arizona |
There is no evidence that epilepsy per se causes low self-esteem. However, recent research suggests that people with epilepsy sometimes have difficulty forming relationships with others, possibly due to neurological damage to the temporal lobe. One study of patients with poorly controlled epilepsy found that 68 percent of subjects had no personal friends. People who lack the social support that friendships offer are likely to feel isolated; subsequently, these feelings of isolation may have a negative impact on self-esteem.
Experts also cite other possible reasons why people with epilepsy are prone to low self-esteem: family over-protection, which prevents individuals from developing independence and self-esteem; the perceived stigma that accompanies epilepsy and resultant negative self-image; and general personal dissatisfaction.
Low self-esteem in males with epilepsy (MWE) is particularly common during adolescence, a period of heightened self-consciousness that may be exacerbated by having epilepsy. Surveys indicate that adolescents whose epilepsy is well-controlled are less likely to suffer from low self-esteem than those who have frequent seizures.
Effects of low self-esteem
Low self-esteem can result in general dissatisfaction. It can also adversely affect specific aspects of life. For instance, low self-esteem may contribute to sexual problems, such as decreased libido. Low self-esteem may also be partially responsible for under-employment among MWE. A recent report by the Epilepsy Foundation documented that people with epilepsy have an unemployment rate of 25 percent. Among people whose seizures are poorly controlled, that rate approaches 50 percent.
Ways to improve self-esteem:
Controlling epilepsy – Controlling epilepsy may help improve self-esteem. One study found that in children with epilepsy who successfully underwent surgery, it not only alleviated seizures at a younger age, but also improved the psychosocial status of these individuals later in life.
Support Groups – Group interventions have proved beneficial as self-esteem boosters. For instance, a recent study demonstrated how adolescents with epilepsy benefited from a 6-week, structured psycho- educational group intervention. The intervention involved cognitive-behavioral strategies in which participants were encouraged to share their own experiences. Results showed that the intervention helped participants better understand their disease and engage in peer support. Post-intervention outcome measurements indicated an overall positive trend for quality of life improvement, suggesting that support groups would benefit MWE suffering from low self-esteem.
Stress management – Stress management has been linked to improvements in self-esteem and seizure control. Recent research indicates that, by increasing self-esteem, MWE may be able to manage stressful situations more effectively. Moreover, studies indicate that stress management may lead to improved seizure control in some MWE. Therefore, MWE who suffer from low self-esteem and anxiety may benefit by learning and practicing relaxation techniques. Examples of these techniques include aromatherapy, tai chi, reflexology and meditation.
Seeking professional help – If feelings of low self-esteem persist for a prolonged period of time or interfere with daily living, it is advisable to seek help from a trained professional, such as a clinical psychologist or a qualified counselor. A referral can be obtained through a primary care provider.