Understanding Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a disorder of brain function that involves recurring seizures. About 4% of the population will have epilepsy at some stage of their life and it presents as unique to every person.

So what is a seizure? A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical discharge in a group of brain cells (neurons). During a seizure neurons can fire up to five hundred times a second – more than six times the normal rate and for a brief period, this can cause strange sensations, emotions and behaviour or convulsions & loss of consciousness.

It is important that you understand what your individual epilepsy means for you.

  • Around 10% of people can expect to have at least one seizure in their lifetime, of these one third will later receive a diagnosis of epilepsy.
  • Close to 1% of the population currently have epilepsy and 4% of people will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some time in their lives.
  • 1 in 200 children live with epilepsy.
  • The highest incidences of new diagnosis are in the over 60 age bracket and 1 in 4 people with a cognitive disability are likely to live with epilepsy.

65% of diagnosis of epilepsy have no known cause and we recognize that this can be frustrating for you and your family.

Living with epilepsy does not have to always limit your career aspirations, personal goals or dreams, it may however lead you on a new journey one you may not have previously considered. Using the links below you can read or listen to what other people living with epilepsy have to say about their diagnosis and the impacts on their life.

You can find useful information about epilepsy by downloading the Epilepsy Australia Diagnosing Epilepsy – answering your questions (PDF 882kb)  booklet or read our Information Sheets.

Click here to go to our YouTube channel which has videos about living with epilepsy told by people living with epilepsy.

You can also go to our page The Impacts of Epilepsy to find some videos about the impacts of epilepsy on people’s lives.

What is a seizure?

  • A seizure is an event which occurs when the regular brain pattern is disrupted. Our brain usually transmits regular electrical impulses which carry messages between our brain and body. When this pattern is disrupted by a sudden burst of activity a seizure can occur.
  • Not all seizures are epileptic. A seizure can be a result of many different things.
  • There are many different types of seizures. They don’t all look the same and even the same seizure type can look different from person to person.
  • Seizures can involve loss of consciousness, unusual movements of the body, odd feelings and sensations and changed behaviour.
  • The type of seizure that occurs depends on where in the brain the irregular activity occurred.

What is epilepsy?

  • Epilepsy and seizures are not the same thing!
  • Epilepsy simply means that a person has a tendency to have recurrent (more than one) seizures.
  • Epilepsy is the most common neurological condition. Around 4% of Australians will develop epilepsy at some stage in their life.
  • Epilepsy can develop at any age regardless of gender or ethnic group.

What ISN'T epilepsy?

  • Epilepsy is not a mental health condition
  • Epilepsy is not a disability (unless seizures are frequent and unable to be controlled)
  • Epilepsy is not contagious

Understanding more about epilepsy

The impact of epilepsy is often more than just the seizure itself. To learn more about seizures and epilepsy, treatment options and how to manage your epilepsy call our confidential InfoLine on 1300 761 487.

Or you can email us and we will respond to your enquiry.

Read more about epilepsy in an easy to read format in our Learning about Epilepsy Easy English (PDF 1.12mb) book.