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Clearing Up Misconceptions About Epilepsy

March 4, 2019

Home » Clearing Up Misconceptions About Epilepsy

By Dr. Temitope Olayinka

Side view image of the head and skull

In this article, we consider how misunderstanding Epilepsy has affected its effective management.


Epilepsy is a long term disease of the brain, where seizures happen repeatedly.

These seizures also known as convulsions are brief episodes of involuntary movement.

They may involve a part of the body or the entire body.

When these convulsions happen, there may also be other symptoms like losing consciousness. They may also be unable to control their bowel and bladder. and loss of bowel or bladder movement 1.

Cultural Misconceptions

For centuries worldwide, people with epilepsy have faced fear, misunderstanding, discrimination and social stigma due to incorrect knowledge of the disease. 1,2.

Not only do people with Epilepsy have a poor quality of life, but their families also experience stigma and discrimination – affecting their human rights.

In many places such as Nigeria, where most non-medical people misunderstand Epilepsy, stigma and discrimination are quite rampant.

It is so much to the extent they even suffer extortion by charlatans who claim to be able to cure this condition 2,3,4.

We hope that by continuing to share facts about this condition, readers would learn more about epilepsy and ensure changes in how we relate with people who suffer from epilepsy.

Challenging Commonly Held Misbeliefs

  • Epilepsy is not a result of witchcraft or a result of offending the gods
    • It is a neurological condition caused by episodes of excessive electrical discharge in a group of brain cells.
    • Different parts of the brain can be the site of such discharges.
    • Evidence from medical studies has shown us how some of the abnormal discharge happens allowing us to develop suitable treatments.  Therefore, take the individual to the healthcare centre instead of going to the spiritualist.
  • Epilepsy is more common than you think.
    • It is the most common neurological disorder and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO): approximately 50 million people in the world are currently living with epilepsy1.
  • If a seizure has a specific cause and removal of the cause stops the seizure, it is not epileptic.
    • For instance, some children have seizures when they have a fever, which is called ‘febrile seizures’.
    • In addition, overdosing or withdrawal from some drugs can cause seizures and none of these are epileptic seizures.
  • Seizures (convulsions) do not automatically mean Epilepsy.
    • Many people will convulse at least once in their life for different reasons.
    • It is important to go to the hospital during or after any new or unprovoked episode of seizures.
  • Epilepsy is diagnosed after two or more episodes of unprovoked seizures and after many tests.
  • Epilepsy is not contagious.
    • You cannot get epilepsy from sharing utensils, saliva, blood or making fun of an epileptic person. Avoiding an epileptic patient, refusing to share utensils with them or offering them help in order to protect yourself is stigmatization.

Prolonged Seizures

If an individual is having sustained episodes of seizures take them to a healthcare provider immediately.  

During a Seizure – What To Do

A great proportion of death secondary to epilepsy is preventable.

When a person is having a seizure, if possible, ensure they lie on their left side, so they do not choke on their vomit.

Avoid trying to pin them down.

Ensure they do not roll into fire, water, or hit their head and limbs against hard/sharp surfaces.

Cushion their head when possible and loosen tight clothing.

Send for assistance/an ambulance and stay close to them till they recover.

What To Do if someone is having a Seizure.


Anyone can have epilepsy.

Male, Female Young or Old. No one is immune; not even You.

What is your own experience of Epilepsy, convulsions or seizures? What beliefs do people around you have about this condition?

Let us know in the comments section.

More Reading:


  • Allen N.A, Uche V E,  Uchenna P E, Ojinime, E O (2016) Epilepsy, Stigmatization and the Publicity Imperative for Nigeria: An Assessment of NECAP-Rise Clinic Communication Initiative.
  • Folorunsho T N, Joseph O F, Obafemi J B, Olaniyi O A, Zainab T (2010) Social consequences of epilepsy: A study of 231 Nigerian patients. Annals of African Medicine, 9(3) 170-175. DOI: 10.4103/1596-3519.6836
  • Uche A, Omoniyi S (2018) Epilepsy: myths, facts and fallacies of a raging scourge.

Editing By AskAwayHealth


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. 

The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly

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