Common Seizure Triggers and Strategies to Avoid Them

What are Seizure “Triggers”?

Before listing common seizure triggers and ways to avoid them, lets briefly review what is Epilepsy or commonly known as seizure disorder.

Epilepsy is a disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed resulting in seizures.  It is basically a result of abnormal electrical brain activity causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness. Epilepsy is defined as having two or more unprovoked seizures. One seizure does not signify epilepsy (up to 10% of people worldwide have one seizure during their lifetime). Epilepsy may occur as a result of a genetic disorder or an acquired brain injury, such as trauma or stroke. But in 50% of cases, there’s no known cause.

Depending on the area of the brain impacted by these abnormal activities, seizures can cause:

  •  Shaking
  • Twitches
  • Confusion
  • Blank Stares
  • Pain
  • Changes in sensation (hearing, vision, taste)
  • Feelings of fear, anxiety, dread, or even pleasure
  • Changes in heart rate or breathing
  • Stiffness throughout the body
  • Repeated or automatic movements

That said, no two cases of epilepsy are the same.  An individual’s trigger can be completely different than someone else’s triggers.

Some of the most common known seizure triggers include:

  • Missed dosage of anti-epileptic drug (AED)
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Flashing lights or patterns
  • Withdrawal from narcotics and/or barbiturates
  • Low blood sugar
  • Time of the day
  • Hormonal changes
  • Fever
  • Infection or other illness

Increased awareness and understanding of what causes one’s seizures can help with diagnostics, treatment planning, and symptoms management.

Journal entry (information about seizures and factors associated with epilepsy) coupled with structured routine can help with identification of specific triggers as well as pathways to avoid the known trigger.

Once a patient understands and knows their specific trigger(s), the following can help avoid them or reduce its impact.

  • Take medications as prescribed (right dosage at the right time)
  • Limit stress
  • Getting adequate amount of sleep
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and/or other substances
  • Avoid flashing lights or patterns
  • Modifying eating habits
  • Planning around hormonal changes
  • Treating at the first sign of illness
  • Talking with others who understand (outreach group, medical professional, mental health provider)

Neurology should always be consulted first.  Once you have established  yourself with a neurologist, neuropsychology can help with the treatment of seizure disorder.

Please contact our staff or schedule an appointment with our providers for diagnostic clarification and treatment planning including identifications of triggers and help with managing them.  Our doctors can help you manage symptoms associated with epilepsy with evidenced based approaches including Medical Adjustment Counseling ®, Biofeedback, and Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy

Mihir J. Shah, Psy.D.
Clinical Neuropsychologist