Many people with epilepsy can enjoy satisfying orgasms. However, epilepsy and seizure disorders can have an impact on relationships and sexual health, and sex problems are common in both men and women with epilepsy.
Studies have shown men with epilepsy often experience a lack of sex drive and difficulty obtaining and maintaining an erection. Women with epilepsy report having little interest in sex, difficulty reaching orgasm, or vaginal dryness or spasms that make sexual intercourse painful.
How can epilepsy cause sex problems?
- Epilepsy can damage areas of the brain that control sexual function. For example, getting and maintaining an erection may be more challenging for some men with temporal lobe epilepsy.
- Epilepsy can negatively affect hormone levels that are responsible for stimulating sexual desire and arousal.
- Some antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) can also lower hormone levels or change how hormones are used in the body. Side effects of these drugs also include:
Psychological or emotional factors
- Low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety due to your disorder can impact how you feel about having sex. If epilepsy makes you feel vulnerable, terrified, or helpless, it is likely to have an impact on your sexual life.
- Some people are afraid of having a seizure while having sex, particularly if their seizures are provoked by physical exertion, excitement, or rapid breathing. However, having a seizure during intercourse is no more likely than having one at any other moment for most people. Discussing with your partner what to do if you have a seizure during sex can help you both cope with this.
Can seizures cause orgasms?
Reflex seizures can be triggered by a range of stimuli, including light, music, and cognitive phenomena. However, there have been cases where sexual activity has been reported to be a trigger for epileptic seizures.
So far, most of these cases have been recorded in women and rarely in men. They have all been discovered to be in the right cerebral hemisphere.
How can epileptic seizures impact relationships?
Seizures can be unpredictable or frightening for both the person suffering from the seizures and those who witness them. It may be difficult to cope with the memory of a seizure, your appearance, how you both felt, or the worry that it may happen again.
Some people are afraid of being in the same spot where it happened before. This can put a strain on a relationship if the seizure occurred in bed or during time alone together. It may help to talk through these issues with your partner.
How can partners support each other?
Everyone is different, and there are a variety of approaches to dealing with epilepsy-related concerns. Many people with epilepsy do not require the assistance of a caregiver, but some do, particularly when they have a seizure.
If your partner has epilepsy, you can provide support by helping them with their medications and sharing in activities that help them stay safe. However, keep in mind that this may affect their sense of independence.
If you have epilepsy, you may be concerned about how to inform a new partner about your condition and how they may react. While being with someone with epilepsy may require lifestyle changes, however, sharing in these new experiences can strengthen your relationship with someone and solidify your bond with them.
Being honest with your partner may require courage, but open communication is key to healthy relationships, especially when you are dealing with epilepsy. You can also seek professional support in the form of couples therapy.
IMAGESBrowse our medical image collection to see examples of MRI brain scans, PET scans, and other imaging techniques used to diagnose and treat brain disorders See Images
Sengupta A, Mahmoud A, Tun SZ, Goulding P. Orgasm-induced seizures: male studied with ictal electroencephalography. Seizure. 2010 Jun;19(5):306-9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1059131110000828
Harden CL. Sexuality in men and women with epilepsy. CNS Spectr. 2006 Aug;11(8 Suppl 9):13-8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16871133/
Henning O, Johannessen Landmark C, Traeen B, et al. Sexual function in people with epilepsy: Similarities and differences with the general population. Epilepsia. 2019 Sep;60(9):1984-1992. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/epi.16311
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