Signs & Symptoms of Epilepsy

Kailyn Houston

Social stigma, stress and enforced transition in specialist epilepsy

The operational definition for epilepsy in these observations included the inability or difficulty for a child to learn in the average classroom. It was believed that if the child had more than one impairment, they were unable to attend school at all. Special education was also dubbed as a treatment for epilepsy. Thorugh this terminology, we can see how much further there was to understanding both epilepsy and what would constitute as a treatment. We also noticed the language used when discussing a child’s epileptic diagnosis. Terms like ‘defect’, ‘special school’, and ‘mentally imbalanced’ were regularly used throughout these reports. 


Epilepsy was understood (as it is today) to cause both mental and physical symptoms

  • When partial (focal) seizure involves a structure called the limbic system (the emotional center of the brain), an aura may consist of any emotion, from rage to spiritual ecstasy.
  • Temporal lobe epilepsy commonly causes seizures consisting of odd behavior. It is sometimes associated with dream-like states.
  • In his book Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks described temporal lobe seizures as, “an odd, superimposed state in which [people] experience strange moods, feelings, visions, or smells.”


Diagnosis of epilepsy did skew some from the uncertain signs and symptoms as it was truly up to the discretion of whoever was diagnosing the cause. It is important to remember that medical care was not that same as it is today, yet society still had a significant hold on what was deemed necessary to medicalize versus what was simply seen as a personality flaw or characteristic. This section will go into how many were diagnosed along with the treatment that was prescribed and provided to them, along with how society saw epilepsy as a diagnosis.