Youth and Epilepsy

Have you been diagnosed with epilepsy? Are you wondering how having epilepsy will affect your life? How your friends will react? Did you know 50% of people living with Epilepsy are under the age of 16? Epilepsy is a condition NOT a disease. Although having Epilepsy is something you need to consider before some big decisions you make, epilepsy shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dream and living your life like your friends.

This youth section will give you updates on all the Youth information including events in York Region for youth.

Do you hate the stares, whispers, and laughs? If you feel like you are more than just a label check out the youth from across Ontario – they know how you feel too! Go to for more information!

Check out what one of the Youths from EYR made!

Will Having Epilepsy Affect my Schoolwork?

People with epilepsy have the same range of intelligence as other people but students with epilepsy do have a slightly higher rate of difficulty in school and learning problems than those without the condition.

This could be influenced by many factors including:

  • Side effects of seizure medicine e.g. some seizure medications interfere with concentration and memory
  • Student’s anxiety e.g. the anxiety over having a seizure could affect initiative and independence in the classroom
  • Teachers’ attitudes e.g. teachers may misunderstand the condition and incorrectly view a student with epilepsy as having less potential than another student
  • An underlying neurological cause of the epilepsy
  • The seizures themselves
    • e.g. absence seizures could result in an interruption in learning or memory could be affected following a complex partial or tonic-clonic seizure

If you have any concerns over any of these school related issues, you and your family should discuss these with your teachers, school administrators, and doctor. If people understand some of the challenges you are facing, they will be able to support and assist you in meeting those challenges. If you would like your peers and teacher’s top better understand epilepsy, Epilepsy York Region can offer in-services to schools in order to educate others.

Can I Drive?

If your seizures are not controlled there are restrictions to driving. Driving is not allowed until you have been seizure free for 6-12 months and are under a doctor’s care. A shorter period may be considered upon a favorable neurologist’s recommendation. If your seizures return, contact your doctor.

Can I Work?

Having epilepsy does not mean you can’t get a job, continue in a job, or be excellent at what you do.

Before applying for a job, consider how the job will fit into your schedule. Sometimes jobs that are available to teenagers involve working late hours and that could mean that you won’t get enough sleep. A job can also add stress to an already demanding school schedule. A lack of sleep and too much stress are both recognized seizure triggers so consider your job carefully.  When considering long-term career options, research your choices; although your options are many, there may be restriction in certain careers for safety reasons.


People are becoming more knowledgeable about epilepsy but workers with epilepsy sometimes still face discrimination and/or an under utilization of skills in the workplace. An employer may be biased because of lack of knowledge about the condition or may have concerns over safety, liability, or reliability, yet studies involving people with epilepsy in the workplace do not support these concerns.

Physical disabilities are protected grounds under human rights legislation. The Canadian Human Rights Act does not allow discrimination by an employer due to a disability such as epilepsy. Each province and territory has legislation intended to protect the rights outlines in the Canadian human rights laws.

If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace because of your epilepsy you can file a complain with Human Rights Commission. Under Canadian human rights law, however, it is not considered discriminatory on the part of an employer if an act taken by an employer is considered to be reasonable and justifiable under the circumstances, For example, employers are not expected to hire or continue to employ a person whose disability notable increases the probability of health/safety hazards t himself or herself, other employees, and/or the public. For instance people who have seizures may not be suited to safely work on heights, or driving a truck. It is the responsibility of the employer to demonstrate that the person’s disability would threaten his or her safety or the safety of others.


Accommodation is the process through which a worksite is modified to remove barriers for an individual with a disability. Under the Canadian Human right Acts and under some provincial codes, it is the duty of the employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate individuals with epilepsy in the workplace unless such accommodation would cause undue hardship. Accommodation can be as simple as moving furniture in an office or allowing you to trade work with another employee.

Whom Should I Tell?

The decision may depend partly on the type and frequency of your seizures. Sometimes the decision may be based on how close you feel to the person. Do you spend a lot of time with this person? Are you likely to have seizures while you are with the person? Whether or not people would know how to help should you have a seizure while you are with them may be a deciding factor. Although it might not be necessary to discuss your condition with everyone, it is important that those you are with often know how to help if you have a seizure.

What Will Other People Think?

People sometimes fear what they don’t understand. Epilepsy is still misunderstood by many people. Some people think that a seizure always involves body jerking and unconsciousness. They may not be aware that seizures can involve behavior such as blank staring or uncontrolled movements such as chewing or pulling at clothing. People sometimes think that a person having a seizure is behaving a certain way deliberately or just wants attention. They may treat those with epilepsy with unkindness or avoidance out of a lack of knowledge about the condition.

Misconceptions about epilepsy are often based on inaccurate television and movie portrayals, or outdated views on the condition. Through public awareness and education, attitudes towards the condition are slowly changing. It has become accepted knowledge that many brilliant historical figures including Joan of Arc, Vincent Van Gogh, and Isaac Newton had epilepsy.  By sharing information on epilepsy with others, you will help a person to better understand the condition and increase awareness of how to help if they are with someone who has a seizure.

How About Dating?

Again, only you can decide how, when, and if, it is right to talk to a girlfriend or boyfriend about epilepsy. Again, this may depend on how close you feel to the person or on the type and frequency of your seizures. If you have frequent uncontrolled seizures, you may want to share information early in the relationship. If a person understands what epilepsy is, then he or she may react much more positively than you imagine.

What About Sexual Activity and Pregnancy?

Only in rare cases, does sexual activity trigger seizures. In some cases, seizure medicine may lessen a person’s interest in sexual activity or affect sexual function. If seizures are uncontrolled, this could also affect sexual function. If you are sexually active, discuss any concerns with your doctor as a change in medication or other treatments may help. Some types of seizure medicine could also interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills and/or could involve the risk of causing harm to a fetus. Most women with epilepsy have healthy babies but there is a slightly higher risk that having epilepsy or taking seizure medication will affect the fetus.

If you are planning to use or are taking birth control pills, are planning to become pregnant, or are pregnant, it is essential that you talk with your doctor. Changes in medication levels or prescribed drugs may be required. Your doctor may recommend taking folic acid as it is thought to prevent birth defects and is recommended for all women of childbearing age. There is only a slightly higher risk of a child developing epilepsy if a parent has epilepsy. The overall risk of a child having unprovoked seizures is one to two percent in the general population and approximately six percent if a parent has epilepsy.

How About Smoking, Alcohol and Drugs?

Smoking can be hazardous. If you have a seizure while smoking, burns or a fire could result. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and the subsequent withdrawal from alcohol can trigger seizures. Although modest occasional drinking of alcohol doesn’t seem to increase seizure activity in people who aren’t alcoholics or who aren’t sensitive to alcohol, drinking alcohol can lower the metabolism. This can result in lower blood levels of the seizure medication that is also metabolized by the liver. Drinking alcohol can also lower your seizure threshold. A seizure threshold is the level at which your brain will have a seizure.

Some doctors recommend that if seizures are not fully controlled, you should not drink alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, it is necessary that you continue to take your seizure medication as prescribed. Drugs can also provoke seizures. Withdrawal from marijuana can result in an increase in seizure activity. Cocaine can cause seizures and may do brain damage leading to epilepsy. Amphetamines (e.g. speed), ecstasy, and LSD are also street drugs associated with seizures.


Some women find that their seizures increase at the time of their monthly menstruation period. When seizures are more frequent around the time of menstruation, this is referred to as catamenial epilepsy. Noting the dates of your periods on a seizure record chart will help you to determine whether menstruation is a seizure trigger for you.

Why Do I Feel So Depressed?

There is an increased risk of depression in people with epilepsy. Depression may be a side effect of medication, or it may occur just before, just after, or between seizures. Depression could also be a reaction to the insensitivity of others or the anxiety caused by not knowing when or if another seizure will occur. If you find that you are not sleeping or eating properly, or are feeling hopeless and have no energy, you should talk about these feelings with people who care about you AND with your doctor. They may be able to help.

Information provided is not intended to replace any medical advice provided by your physician or neurologist. It is intended to supply general information on epilepsy and seizures. For further medical information or specific diagnostic questions, please refer your concerns to your physician or neurolog