Emotional Effects of Diagnosis - Frequently Asked Questions

Self-esteem – How exactly is it affected by epilepsy?

24 January 2010
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Self-esteem may be the single most important attribute for a child to develop. For children with epilepsy, developing self-esteem can be a challenge, as society often holds negative attitude toward epilepsy.

It is important for adults to focus on what is within their control. Parents can instil feelings of self-acceptance and self-worth within their children. In order to help your child develop self-esteem, you must accept and acknowledge your child's feelings as important, valid and valuable. In doing so, you will create an open environment for discussion, which will help you address any future problems. At times, your child may struggle with a low self-image and increased feelings of anxiety and loss of control due to the unpredictable nature of seizures. Just as parents have a multitude of concerns about their child's seizures, the child may also be coping with a myriad of feelings, including fear, embarrassment, anger, denial and anxiety. These feelings may come and go, and may fluctuate in duration and intensity. Uncertainty about when a seizure will occur, fear of death, fear of medical tests, fear that peers will tease, are feelings that can follow some children into adult years. If parents are comfortable with the child's seizure disorder, it will help the child to be more comfortable with the disorder. If parents are ashamed of or are anxious about their child's epilepsy, then their child will be ashamed or anxious too.

Unfortunately, it is likely that your child will need to combat inaccurate societal beliefs and unfair stereotypes about epilepsy. Learning to cope with these stereotypes may become one of the greatest challenges in your child's life. Often, epilepsy only becomes an illness when seen through the eyes of others. Equipping your child with correct information and the vocabulary to answer questions from the public will be immensely helpful. Sharing information about epilepsy in words that your child understands will help to remove some of the mystery. If there is a greater understanding, it may be easier for your child to accept his/her epilepsy. Concealing information about epilepsy in an attempt to protect a child is not helpful. Children often fill in the blanks with incorrect information, which can create unfounded worries. Don't assume that, because a child asks no questions, epilepsy is not a concern. Your child's self image, in large part, is affected by the reactions of family, friends and involved medical professionals. As a parent, you may be able to educate others. Inform family and friends that the seizures are a temporary interruption to your child's day. It is important for others to understand that your child is a child first, who simply happens to have seizures.


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