Improve Epilepsy with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Short-term mindfulness-based therapy significantly improves quality of life and reduces anxiety and seizures in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy.” – Pauline Anderson
Epilepsy, also known as seizure disorder, is a chronic disorder that includes a wide variety of neurological dysfunctions with the common property of unpredictable seizures of the brain. The seizures can vary widely from individual to individual in intensity, duration, frequency and parts of the brain affected. Epilepsy occurs to about 4% of the population sometime during their lifetime with about 150,000 new cases each year in the U.S. The first order treatment for Epilepsy is anti-seizure drugs which are effective for about 70% of the cases. These drugs can produce mild side effects of feeling tired, stomach upset or discomfort, dizziness, or blurred vision. In some cases, surgery is called for, removing the portion of the brain where the seizures originate.
Epilepsy sufferers often have high levels of anxiety and depression, poor quality of life, and cognitive problems. These secondary symptoms may actually worsen the epilepsy. Hence, there is a need to find safe and effective additional or alternative treatments for epilepsy. Mindfulness training has been shown to produces changes in the brain and has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety, depression, and cognitive problems. So, it is possible that mindfulness training may help with drug resistant epilepsy. Indeed, research has shown that mindfulness training can markedly improve epilepsy symptoms in individuals who do not respond to anti-seizure drugs.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-based interventions in epilepsy: a systematic review” see summary below or view the full text of the study at:
Wood and colleagues review the published research literature on the effectiveness of mindfulness training on the symptoms of epilepsy. They identified three published randomized controlled trials employing group based mindfulness training. They found that the only study that measured anxiety and seizures reported that mindfulness training produced significant reduction in anxiety and in both the frequency and the intensity of epileptic seizures. All three studies reported significant reductions in depression and increases in the knowledge and skills to deal with depression. They also reported improvements in the quality of life of the patients living with epilepsy.
Since there were only three published studies included in the review conclusions must be tempered and obviously more research is needed. But, the results reported are interesting and potentially important. It appears that mindfulness training can reduce anxiety and depression in epilepsy patients like it does in healthy individuals and those with other physical and mental issues. But, importantly it also appears to improve the core problem with epilepsy, the seizures themselves. Since, this latter result is based upon a single study, it needs to be replicated in future studies. Hence, the evidence suggests that mindfulness training may be an important adjunctive or stand-alone treatment for epilepsy.
So, improve epilepsy with mindfulness.
“Mindfulness therapy helped to increase the quality of life of these patients regarding more than just their seizures, and it is certainly a type of therapy that is not harmful.” – RSC Diagnostics
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Wood, K., Lawrence, M., Jani, B., Simpson, R., & Mercer, S. W. (2017). Mindfulness-based interventions in epilepsy: a systematic review. BMC Neurology, 17, 52. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12883-017-0832-3
Mindfulness based interventions (MBIs) are increasingly used to help patients cope with physical and mental long-term conditions (LTCs). Epilepsy is associated with a range of mental and physical comorbidities that have a detrimental effect on quality of life (QOL), but it is not clear whether MBIs can help. We systematically reviewed the literature to determine the effectiveness of MBIs in people with epilepsy.
Medline, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, EMBASE, CINAHL, Allied and Complimentary Medicine Database, and PsychInfo were searched in March 2016. These databases were searched using a combination of subject headings where available and keywords in the title and abstracts. We also searched the reference lists of related reviews. Study quality was assessed using the Cochrane Collaboration risk of bias tool.
Three randomised controlled trials (RCTs) with a total of 231 participants were included. The interventions were tested in the USA (n = 171) and China (Hong Kong) (n = 60). Significant improvements were reported in depression symptoms, quality of life, anxiety, and depression knowledge and skills. Two of the included studies were assessed as being at unclear/high risk of bias – with randomisation and allocation procedures, as well as adverse events and reasons for drop-outs poorly reported. There was no reporting on intervention costs/benefits or how they affected health service utilisation.
This systematic review found limited evidence for the effectiveness of MBIs in epilepsy, however preliminary evidence suggests it may lead to some improvement in anxiety, depression and quality of life. Further trials with larger sample sizes, active control groups and longer follow-ups are needed before the evidence for MBIs in epilepsy can be conclusively determined.