Seizure Disorders and Your Children’s Mental Health
Mental health impairments may be due to a variety of physical causes. Seizure disorders, surgery, severe acne, dehydration, high fever, and injury to the brain from falls, blows, or shaking are some of them.
Among the physical factors affecting children’s mental health and behavior are seizure disorders. This article describes seizure symptoms that are sometimes confused with other diagnoses.
ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER OR NEUROLOGICAL IMPAIRMENT?
“I told you Junior stayed out all night? Well, he’s a real problem. He’s gets more irritable by the day. Then he blows up. Afterward he seems to be nice again, and couldn’t be a nicer kid. But, when he gets mad, look out! He’s a regular bull in a china shop! Never know what is going to set him off. And cuss! You can’t even understand him. He cusses a blue streak!”
Often, children with behavioral problems are just labeled “a bad kid” who needs to be punished. The teacher may be the first to notice annoying habits of which parents have been unaware. Their observations are important and should be requested. Junior should be evaluated by his physician for psychomotor seizures, abnormally high electro-chemical activity of the brain, usually the temporal lobe and also Bi-Polar symptoms.
A referral to a specialist in neurology may be necessary for diagnosis and medications. Also, a psychiatrist’s evaluation may be needed to determine whether Bi-Polar illness is part of the problem. However, regular rest, sleep, and meals are essential for well-being regardless of what neurological and psychological findings are present.
Seizures are complex events that unsuspectingly impact many children’s lives. In a study of 414 patients with complex partial seizures, one-fourth had only the emotional components of the seizures. The picture often includes increasing irritability and bursts of bad temper, or temper tantrums, and striking out if restrained during the period. Thinking may be slow and rigid, or bizarre. Sometimes lip smacking, unusual mouth movements, garbled speech, and wide mood swings of elation, anger, and depression occur. Forty-three percent had abnormal muscle movements, although not full-blown convulsions. One-third had automatic behavior with a tendency to repetitive activity, such as getting in and out of bed two or three times, like a movie being played forward and backward, or bouncing a ball over and over and over. These seizures can last one to three minutes. During this type seizure, patients do not respond when you speak or motion to them, and appear not to hear or see you. The behavior can be similar to sleep walking, with or without the repetition of movements.The patient’s history may include convulsions with fever during childhood illness (one-third of those whose illness became apparent as adolescents). Two-thirds of all seizure problems begin in childhood. Other contributing factors are convulsions as a newborn, cerebral palsy, encephalitis (infection of the brain tissue), head trauma, and earlier seizures. (Principles of Neurology, 5th Ed. originally by Adams and Victor and published by McGraw Hill. Inc in 1993.)
Delayed meals and skipped meals result in low-blood sugar and increased physiological stress. The stress of low blood sugar by itself increases the frequency of seizures. The low blood sugar is usually accompanied by additional emotional stress–a double-whammy to the nervous system. Medications, regular balanced meals, stress reduction, time management, and counseling all benefit the patient and family.
Another set of symptom’s, Tourette’s Syndrome, includes garbled speech; short, animal-like sounds; facial tics; and random, involuntary head, arm, or leg movements. The animal sounds may mimic a dog’s bark, cat’s meow, or pig’s grunt. Medication is effective in reducing the frequency and severity of the symptoms.
“Absence seizures” are short, two to twenty second periods of “staring,” “daydreaming,” or of being “spaced out,” “blank,” “not there.” The person, child or adult, does not hear or see you during that time, but may continue to turn pages if reading, or ride a bike, or drive a car. They usually are not aware of being unconnected to what is happening around them and re-enter conversations where they left off.
In children these symptoms of the above disorders may be misinterpreted as Attention Deficit Disorder. Often the teacher is the first to notice the behavior and report it to the parents. Adequate sleep and rest, well-balanced meals, vitamin supplements, mid-morning and mid-afternoon milk with non-sugar snacks, daily exercise, and measures to reduce stress are all helpful in managing these problems, however, medication may be needed for maximum performance.
“Well, like I said before, we weren’t getting much sleep and I don’t know when we sat down to eat. I guess everyone fixed for themselvesl I was too upset to eat and my husband doesn’t eat when he’s using or drinking.”
Optimal nutrition, rest, exercise, and physical care are essential to having the best possible mental, emotional, social, financial and spiritual wellbeing. Bad habits of nutrition, rest, exercise, mental and physical care negatively impact intellectual, mental, emotional, financial and spiritual wellbeing. Your current level of physical fitness and wellness is a factor in your personal strengths, weaknesses, and abilities to cope with life events. Later articles will go into more specifics on these topics but they are important at every stage of life.