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Can I Continue Working with Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder most commonly characterized by recurring, unprovoked seizures. Epilepsy becomes more common with age. Most new cases of epilepsy are reported amongst infants or the elderly, but the disorder can strike at any age.

There are wide variances in the severity and frequency of epileptic symptoms among those who have epilepsy. Roughly 70% of those who have epilepsy are able to control the symptoms with medication. Others are able to get some relief of symptoms through surgery. In some cases, neither medication nor surgery eliminates the seizures.

There are several different subtypes of epilepsy and the types of seizures experienced vary from one type to another. Epileptic seizures always include some degree of loss of consciousness. Other symptoms typical of epileptic seizures include:

  • Sudden, unexplained mood swings, including extreme feelings of anger, fear, happiness, or sadness
  • Nausea
  • Feeling like you are moving or falling when you aren’t
  • Unexplained, unusual sensations
  • Hallucinations
  • Sensory illusions
  • Detachment from the environment around you
  • Difficulty or inability to speak
  • Severe loss of depth perception/ spatial distortions

Generally, those who experience epileptic seizures will have detailed memory of the epileptic event.

Epileptic seizures may also strike when you are sleeping. Those who experience seizures while they are asleep will generally enter a partially awakened state. They often appear fully conscious and may act out on the dream or hallucination they are experiencing at the moment. Epileptics generally realize that their hallucinations aren’t real, but are often unable to keep from acting on them.

How Epilepsy Affects Your Physical Capacity for Work

If your epilepsy is controlled, it will not significantly affect your ability to perform physical work. However, it’s obvious that you cannot perform any kind of physical work while having an epileptic seizure. The prospect of having a seizure can also present a significant hazard in most workplaces where physical labor is performed. In addition to the danger a potential seizure on the job presents to you, it could put your coworkers at risk. Of course, the degree or risk involved depends on the type of seizures you experience and which symptoms accompany your seizures.

How Epilepsy Affects Your Mental Capacity for Work

For many, the very thought of having a seizure while at the workplace is enough to cause a significant amount of anxiety. In some cases, this anxiety is so severe that it makes it impossible to maintain gainful employment. For others, environmental conditions may trigger seizures, further preventing them from performing in many workplaces. Many who suffer from epilepsy also deal with depression, anxiety, or other psychiatric or neurological disorders which can also hinder your ability to concentrate or perform any type of work.

Epilepsy and Social Security Disability

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has guidelines for whether your epilepsy is severe enough to qualify you for Social Security disability benefits. To qualify for disability benefits, your epilepsy must be medically documented. Ideally, your claim should include as much testimony as possible from those who have witnessed your seizures firsthand. You must be able to show that you are undergoing medical treatment (for at least three months) and that the treatment does not have your epileptic seizures and other symptoms under control to the point you could reasonably be expected to function on a job site.

Whether you have daytime seizures, nighttime seizures, or both, you must show that your epilepsy significantly affects your ability to function during the workday. If you typically have more than one seizure a month despite treatment, you should meet the listing requirements. If your seizures are less frequent, but still make it impossible to function in a work environment, you may still qualify, but you will have to show evidence that you cannot reasonably be expected to work.

If you are planning on claiming Social Security disability benefits based on epilepsy, consider contacting a Social Security disability lawyer to go over your claim with you and to represent you. Claimants with professional representation are nearly twice as likely to have their disability claims approved. Fill out the form on this site for a free evaluation of your claim by an attorney or advocate in your area.