Epilepsy Awareness

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November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month. I want to take a few words to reflect on this baffling, often-misunderstood condition, especially within the mental-health profession.

Epilepsy has been known since ancient times. In the New Testament, Jesus cures an epileptic, recommending fasting and prayer. Such might be the genesis of the ketogenic diet, developed since World War I when it was observed that epileptic patients suffering from starvation were having fewer seizures. The diet builds ketones in the body without starving the individual. As with much of epilepsy, no one has yet explained why the diet sometimes miraculously works.

Lesions of the temporal lobe can create behavior changes and oddities as wide ranging as violent crime or a sense of religious ecstasy magnified. The controversial Geschwind syndrome is one example.

Deeper-brain problems are manifest in such child-and-young-adult conditions as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and tuberous sclerosis.

Some famous epileptics are Socrates, Dostoevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Vincent van Gogh, and Lewis Carroll. Although these are all men, women are susceptible too. Emily Dickinson is a likely example as is William Wordsworth’s sister, Dorothy.

AMHF is committed to understanding and better-treatment of a mysterious condition, which often underlies, or masquerades as, psychiatric and psychological disturbances in its myriad forms. Research funding is desperately needed in the U.S., as Europe is far ahead in many respects. An excellent organization is CURE, co-founded by one of President Obama’s chief strategists.

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