Sexual relationships are a normal part of healthy living. Three things lead to sexual activity: first there is desire - wanting to have sex with a partner. When that feeling is strong, there is arousal - the physical feeling that you "need" to have sex. Finally, there is orgasm - the height of physical pleasure during intimacy. These processes depend on many reflexes coordinated by the nervous system, and involve hormones, nerves, and blood vessels.
Epilepsy can have effect on sex, and sex has effect on epilepsy. Many people with well controlled epilepsy have comfortable and satisfying sex lives. Having a supportive partner who provides emotional support, as well as sexual intimacy, is perhaps the greatest asset in helping people with epilepsy feel positive about themselves In turn, this helps them improve their control of seizures. Anxiety and stress are seizure triggers. Sex can relieve stress, and help one relax, thereby reducing seizure frequency.
People living with epilepsy more often than not encounter sexual difficulties. The difficulties can be due to epilepsy itself, the medications used to treat the illness, or due to reactions of partners and others to the diagnosis of epilepsy.
We answer a few common questions about epilepsy and intimacy:
How often should one have sex?
The desire for sex varies widely in the general population and in people with epilepsy. A person who does not think about sex or want to have sex one to three times a month probably has unusually low sexual desire. But, this is a very personal matter, and if you are satisfied with your level of sexual activity, you have no problem.
Could having sex trigger a seizure?
Sex rarely triggers a seizure, although it does occasionally happen. An intimate partner needs to be taught how to deal with seizures in general. Seizures during lovemaking would be no different from those that occur during other times.
What can I do if I’m encountering problems with sex?
As partners, you need to find a way to talk about your sexual needs and concerns. This will help break through the guilt and fear of causing pain, anger or rejection. Being able to directly talk about sexual difficulties can lead to finding solutions. Making love with a partner involves emotional intimacy which can be helped by both partners sharing their concerns, as well as their affection with each other. At the end of the day, love can be the best medicine for a couple living with epilepsy.
- The writer is the National Epilepsy Coordination Committee (NECC) National Secretary (Kenya), and an Epilepsy Awareness ambassador