Facts about epilepsy
There are a number of misunderstandings about epilepsy and the terminology used to describe epilepsy.
Current facts and figures
- Epilepsy is a tendency to have recurring seizures.
- There are many different seizure types and seizure syndromes.
- Epilepsy is not just one condition; there are many forms of epilepsy.
- Epilepsy can affect anyone- any age, any background, any level of intelligence.
- Around 3-4% of people will develop epilepsy at some stage in their life.
- Approx. 200,000 children and adults in Queensland will acquire epilepsy during their lifetime.
Common misconceptions about epilepsy
- Epilepsy is NOT contagious- you cannot "catch" epilepsy.
- Epilepsy is NOT a mental illness- it's a neurological condition.
- Epilepsy is NOT always convulsive (shaking-falling) seizures. There are many different types of seizures.
Terminology and labels to be avoided
- Illness - epilepsy is a neurological condition, not an illness.
- Disorder - epilepsy is a disease, not a disorder.
- Fit - the term seizure is preferred. There are many different types of seizures. A convulsion is a term for a seizure involving stiffening and jerking of the body. ‘Fit’ implies willful outbursts, like a ‘tantrum’, or loss of emotional control.
- Victim or sufferer – this implies someone who is helpless. Most people with epilepsy want your understanding, but not your pity.
- Epileptic – a person with epilepsy is a more appropriate term to use. Like most of us, people with epilepsy dislike labels. These feelings can be explained by the phrase ‘epilepsy is what I have, not who I am’.
- Grand Mal or Petit Mal – these are terms once used to describe seizures. We now understand there are many different types of seizures, so these terms are too general, outdated and inappropriate to use.
- Controlled – seizures may be controlled with medication. The term ‘controlled epileptic’ implies the person needs to be restrained in some way.