Is epilepsy painful?

If you’re like me, then you probably know next to nothing about epilepsy. Like most things in life, my knowledge of epilepsy is limited to the small amount of information I’ve gathered from popular culture and bad Medical Dramas. However, there’s one thing that I’ve always been curious about: is epilepsy painful?

What is Epilepsy?

Before we delve into the question at hand, let’s first discuss what exactly epilepsy is. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes random bursts of electrical activity in the brain which can lead to seizures. Seizures come in all shapes and sizes but they mostly manifest as involuntary muscle spasms or loss of consciousness.

The Anatomy Lesson

The brain is an incredibly complex organ made up of hundreds (if not thousands) of different components all working together to allow us to function normally-ish on a day-to-day basis. One such component is called a neuron which are basically just tiny cells tasked with transmitting information throughout our nervous system via electrical impulses.

Let’s Talk Symptoms

While seizures are obviously the most common symptom associated with epilepsy (I mean it would be weird if they weren’t right?) There are several other symptoms that can co-exist alongside them:

  • Outbursts
  • Memory Loss
  • Staring Spells
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Mood Swings

Fun fact: Even though seizures are closely tied with epilepsy, you don’t necessarily have to experience one to diagnose someone with it.

So Then…Is It Painful?

Okay here’s where things get complicated folks because essentially this question doesn’t have a straight answer — GASP! While some people might experience pain during an epileptic episode i.e when their body involuntarily seizes suddenly causing abnormal movement or vibration^(1), others may not even notice anything out of ordinary has happened until after the seizure is over.

Seizures are like snowflakes

The types of seizures that a person can undergo vary greatly in cause, effect and intensity which means that pain levels will also be different from person to person. For example, some people may experience a head injury or lose control of their limbs while others might just stare off into space for no good reason. It’s worth noting that generally speaking, the less intense the seizure, the less painful it tends to be for the individual experiencing it.


So what have we learned today? Honestly not a whole lot other than epilepsy is complicated AF and you probably shouldn’t try diagnosing your friends based on what you saw on Grey’s Anatomy last night (unless of course, they’re hot doctors who totally love messy political drama). As far as whether or not epilepsy is painful, well unfortunately there isn’t really an answer because it completely depends on each individual case.

A Final Thought:

If I can leave you with one thing, let it be this: please don’t make fun of anyone who has epileptic attacks – not only is it rude but also super insensitive considering over 50 million people worldwide are affected by this condition^(2).


  1. Not to mention terrifying as hell
  2. Fun fact: That works out at roughly 0.7% of the world population – see I was learning stuff too!

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