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I'm planning a talk on mental illness - does epilepsy have the same stigma as mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar?

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I have found that it does have a stigma,...alot of people dont know much about epilepsy...and what they do know...it seems to either scare them, or they are just ignorant about it. I am from a small town in the midwest. When I first started having seizures, I was entering my freshman year of high school, and I would get the usual "So whats it like?" questions...but then I'd hear from other friends that I was being called a freak or a weirdo...or why don't I just stay at home. Then there was the family aspect of it. I wasnt supposed to tell anyone about it. I was suppossed to play 'normal' (whatever that is...ha) which didnt come in handy if I had a seizure infront of someone who had no idea I had epilepsy.

If my epilepsy is ever brought up in a conversation, there is ussually a pause or silence...and people JUST DONT KNOW HOW TO REACT...some have the "awwww...I'm so sorry." while others tend to use humor, "Do you pee your pants when you have a seizure? Do you bite your tongue off and swallow it?" which is degrating...but like I said...its just others ways of not knowing how to responde to a stigma.Epileptics were thought throughout time to be different things...witches, possessed by demons, you name it. We have come a long way.

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We have come a long way.

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Or maybe not.

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True, but at least we now have medications that can help control seizures...we have educational tools...I always try and explain epilepsy in a way that is easy for people to understand, without using big words that make me sound like Im reading a doctors manuel.

Back in the day epileptics were shunned, oftenned outed from society. Suicide rates (even still) amongst epileptics were/are higher than people who were/are not...but it was worse beofre there ways of controlling seizures. I cannot imagine living in a time, when the only way to control a seizure would be alchol or opiates...or to just have the seizures themselves...be ousted for having demons in my brain...and to be treated like the village witch...

There are always going to be people who have not 'been there'...in any aspect. Who don't know someone who is epileptic, who doesnt care...whatever. It happens. Its unfortunate.

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ANYTHING out of the range of "normal" has a stigma to some extent. Many times that is because of fear and ignorance. I do suspect, however, a lot of it has to do with people's insecurities about their own (real or perceived) "abnormalities".

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm late to the party, as usual, but I've had some experiences in the past few weeks since this post has been inactive that are relevant. It's come up at various random times that I'm epileptic, and while some people have been surprised, no one's really been freaked out or upset or had a bad reaction. A couple people have even been curious about it and asked questions.

As was mentioned already, there probably is a bit of a stigma with anything different that people don't understand, but I've found there to be somewhat less of one than with "being crazy". Not everyone gets either one (most people don't, really), but more people are weirded out by the crazy side of things than the seizure side when they find out about it, it seems, at least in my experience.

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