Relationships and epilepsy
Seizures are a physical symptom, but having epilepsy can mean far more than the physical impact of seizures, for the person with epilepsy, and their partner.
The wider impact of seizures
Many people manage seizures well, but seizures can be unpredictable, frightening or shocking, both for the person having seizures and for those who see them. It may be hard to deal with the memory of a seizure, what the person with epilepsy looked like, how you both felt, or with the fear that it might happen again.
Some people may not want to be alone with their partner in case they have a seizure, or fear being in the same place where it happened before. If this was in a private place such as in bed or during time alone together, this can put strain on a relationship. It may be hard to face this or talk about it, as you may worry that how you feel might upset your partner. Talking it through with someone you trust may help.
Supporting each other
Everyone is different, and there may be many ways to help deal with issues around epilepsy. Many people with epilepsy do not need a carer, but some may need care and support sometimes, particularly when they have a seizure. Supporting someone with epilepsy may include giving them lifts, prompting them to take medication, or sharing activities to help them keep safe. Supporting someone in this way can bring you closer together, but some people with epilepsy may feel this affects their independence. It may help to think that everyone needs support with something, whether they have a long-term condition or not. It can also be important to make time to focus on your relationship separately from giving and receiving support.
New relationships and experiences
A new relationship can be both exciting and daunting for anyone. If you have epilepsy, you may wonder how to tell a new partner about epilepsy and how they might react. The way other people have reacted in the past might also affect how you tell new people. Seizures can disrupt plans and activities, and for some people, having epilepsy affects their confidence.
However, some people find new relationships or interests through changes they make to their lifestyle because of epilepsy. New experiences could also strengthen an existing relationship through gaining confidence, sharing new things, and discovering what is important to you and to your partner.
Talking about epilepsy
Some people find that talking about epilepsy brings them closer to their partners. But sometimes one person in a relationship wants to talk about epilepsy and the other does not. For some people, epilepsy may feel like an unwanted intruder that has changed how things used to be. Talking about epilepsy may be upsetting, or you may feel that you can no longer talk about epilepsy because your partner has ‘heard it all before’.
Being honest about your feelings may take courage, but your partner may be relieved to be able to share how they feel too. Some people use humour to help to deal with, or avoid, difficult feelings. Others may want to keep a balance between talking about epilepsy and other important things as well.
Our confidential helpline is for anyone who wants to talk about epilepsy.
Relationship support for couples
Some couples may chose to seek professional support for their relationship in the form of couples counselling. To find a therapist, visit the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) (opens new window) or the Counselling Directory (opens new window).
Sex and epilepsy
Whether or not you are sexually active, sexual issues can be important at any time of life. Many people with epilepsy do not have specific issues with sex that are caused by their epilepsy. For some people however, epilepsy may have an effect on their sex life.
Sexual desire and arousal
Sexual desire (or ‘sex drive’) is the feeling that you want to have sex, and sexual arousal means the physical changes in the body that help you to have sex, such as getting an erection.
There are many possible reasons why sexual desire or arousal are reduced at times, and this is common in both men and women. Stress, tiredness, illness, alcohol, depression, anxiety, or having a lot on your mind, can all affect sex. Viewing problems with sex as a personal failing or weakness may put more pressure on you, and stop you seeking help for the problem