Myths and Facts About Epilepsy

Here are a few myths about epilepsy and the facts associated with each myth:

  1. Myth – Epilepsy is a mental illness.
    FACT – Epilepsy is a physical disorder that has nothing to do with mental health or intelligence.
  2. Myth – Epilepsy is contagious.
    FACT – It is impossible to "catch" epilepsy from someone who is having a seizure.
  3. Myth – A person who has a seizure can swallow his or her tongue.
    FACT – Someone having a seizure is not at risk of swallowing his or her tongue. Never place an object such as a spoon in the person's mouth, as it could break a tooth or injure the gums, and may block the airway.
  4. Myth – People with epilepsy look different.
    FACT – People with epilepsy look the same as everyone else. In fact, they lead normal lives and can achieve the same goals as the rest of us.
  5. Myth – A seizure can be stopped by restraining the person.
    FACT – Never restrain anyone during a seizure – you could injure him or her. Move the person away from any sharp objects or hard surfaces.


Epilepsy is a neurological condition caused by sudden brief changes in the brain's electrical balance, causing seizures. Seizures can alter awareness, physical movements, consciousness or actions. They generally last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Epilepsy is often called a "seizure disorder." Both terms are used to describe recurring seizures. Epilepsy is generally a chronic and/or lifelong condition.


  • Over 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy.
  • Over 3 million Americans have epilepsy.
  • About 200,000 new cases are diagnosed annually in the United States.
  • One in 10 adults will have a seizure in their lifetime.
  • Epilepsy affects people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
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