Adopting stress reduction techniques may lower the risk of epileptic seizures, according to a review article published in the scientific journal Seizure.  The relationship between stress and epileptic seizures has been studied for many years and a number of scientific studies looking at this relationship have been published. Scientists have shown that stress can, not only increase the risk of sudden seizures, but in severe cases, can also increase the risk of epilepsy.Stressful events that may trigger epileptic seizures include trauma, bereavement, natural disasters or war. It is tough that such stressors lead to higher anxiety levels in people, which in turn can trigger the development of seizures. However the exact mechanism of how stress may be triggering seizures in the brain is not well understood.One of the authors of the study, Dr Heather Mc Kae at the University of Cincinnati said in a press release: “Stress is a subjective and highly individualised state of mental or emotional strain. Although it’s quite clear that stress is an important and common seizure precipitant, it remains difficult to obtain objective conclusions about a direct causal factor for individual epilepsy patients,”For the present review, the scientists analysed 21 studies, which were published since 1980s, that looked into the relationship between stress and seizures.”The earliest studies from the 1980s were primarily diaries of patients who described experiencing more seizures on ‘high-stress days’ than on ‘low-stress days,” said the co-author Dr Michael Privitera.Other studies analysed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data that allow scientists to identify areas of the brain that become highly active in response to external stimuli such as stressful visual and audio triggers.The authors concluded that adopting stress reduction techniques such as controlled deep breathing, relaxation techniques, and exercise could improve people’s overall quality of life and reduce seizure frequency.Further studies are needed however to better understand the mechanism that may link stress and seizures. This way doctors can make evidence-based recommendations about the benefits of stress reduction in reducing the risk of seizures.Author: Dr Özge Özkaya