Epilepsy and Photosensitivity


Even as a person with epilepsy since the age of 8, I still did not find out I had photosensitivity until I was around 24. For me, I had gone to concerts, played video games, and gone to haunted mazes and houses most of my childhood and never had a problem. But one Halloween I was at a friend’s home who decorated their whole yard for the season. They had rapid flashing lights but looking at them with a cover nothing happened but once I went around the cover and saw the light without a cover, I almost immediately had a seizure standing next to my friend.

After that, I did research and talked to my doctors to find out more. I learned that having rapid flashing lights as a trigger only happens to 3% of the people with epilepsy.

Here is a list of some of the basic triggers for people with photosensitivity.

  1. Television screens or computer monitors due to flickering or fast-moving light. (This is why movies like the new Star Wars and comic book movies have warnings about photosensitivity before the movie starts.)
  2. Certain video games can be triggers to some people. Especially with rapid lights. (My parents worried about video games. That is why to help prevent a seizure I play in a fully lighted room and look up reviews on how the video games are. I am still able to play Spider-Man, Final Fantasy, the Kingdom of Hearts, and Horizon the Forbidden West.)
  3. Special lighting or special lighting effects at concerts and events. (I bought Godsmack tickets and then googled Godsmack. The first thing up on the list was seizure warning articles about the concerts and photosensitivity for people with epilepsy.)
  4. Some people, myself included, worry about flashing lights on police and emergency vehicles. (I have a friend whose brother is extremely sensitive to flashing lights or anything close to a rapid light. Even them just riding in a car at night.)
  5. Natural light flickers while driving or being a passenger in a vehicle. (This is also why I care about the light flicker caused by fast trains going throw my town at night. It sometimes gives rapid light effects because of a streetlight light glaring through the train)
  6. In rare cases, some fireworks can cause seizures to

Details of a Trigger

The good news just because it is on the list of possible triggers doesn’t mean it will always cause a seizure. The Epilepsy Foundation website explains that some of these triggers have more details to them to cause a seizure and it is different for everyone.

Examples of the details I am referring to are things like:

  1. How rapidly are the lights moving?
  2. Brightness of the light
  3. Contrast with lighting in the background
  4. How far away are you from the light sources?
  5. The wavelength of the light
  6. If your eyes are open or closed. (After finding out that Halloween lights could affect me, I would go to one corn maze only with a very small section of flashing lights. My friends would go with me and walk me through that part while I had my eyes closed)


This comes down to that even with photosensitivity like me you can still see and do some of the basic things other people do. I still watch movies, play video games, watch fireworks on the 4th of July, and still take my nephew and niece tricker-treating and celebrate Halloween. You just have to be more careful and work on finding details of what are your triggers and ways to avoid those triggers.

(This article is an informational and personal experience article only. If you have any symptoms or questions related to your health, talk to your neurologist, nurse, or local doctor first.)

John is a person who was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 8. John has been a certified peer recovery specialist in the state of Iowa since 2019. John also has training in ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. John is an advocate for epilepsy and mental health. John’s blog is to support fellow people with epilepsy and mental health on their road to recovery.

John loves art, comics (Marvel especially), and the UI Hawkeyes. John lives in a small town with his 3 furry best friends Louie and Mario. (Dogs) and Leo (Cat)

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