The belief of Epilepsy and reality nowadays


What was the belief of epilepsy if you go back in time? And what is the scientific reality of epilepsy nowadays? If you research back to ancient times, you will find that epilepsy was believed to be a possession or an attack on people by demons.


In 1050 BC the Babylonians (located in the Middle East) wrote about epilepsy as being an attack done by spirits. They called epilepsy Sakkikumigtu translated to “fallen’ sickness”. They described multiple types of seizures but referred to it as dealing with different spirits for each type of seizure.


If you go to ancient Greek beliefs, you will find that they believed epilepsy was caused by gods. The goddess Selena and the Olympian Artemis were thought to be the cause of epilepsy if people wrongfully affected either of them. In Greek times and even medieval times epilepsy was referred to as the “scared disease”.


Even the bible refers to epilepsy. Mark 9:14-26, Matthew 17:14-18, and Luke 9:37-43 all explain a situation of a boy having the symptoms of epilepsy but at that time believed to be caused by demons. It is believed in the bible that Jesus cures the young boy of the demon.


For centuries (1400-1782) it was also believed that epilepsy was a curse or a magical spell caused by witchcraft. In 1494 the book “Malleus Maleficarum” based on witchcraft hunting tells the tale that seizures were witchcraft. Even with scientists gaining information on epilepsy and proving it was a physical disease not spiritual. Thousands of people were killed being accused of enforcing witchcraft or being a victim now possessed because of that belief in epilepsy.

In some cultures today epilepsy is still believed to be caused by spiritual elements.



During the Renaissance (1300-1600), people started to believe more in science, and some tried to prove that seizures were caused by physical diseases not spiritual things like demons


The two ancient civilizations that believed that epilepsy was caused physically not spiritually before everyone else was China and India (400 BC). Both had the understanding that it was caused by your body in some way.


In the 1800s to 1900s epilepsy was studied and proven to be a medical disease, not a spiritual problem. Scientists such as John Hughling Jackson, Henri Jean Pascal Gastaut, Wilder Penfield, and Herbert Jasper were scientists out to study the anatomy and physiology of epilepsy with breakthrough studies. This link leads to a document explaining more about that. 

William Pryor Letchworth a businessman who was devoted to charity and the scientist Fredrick Peterson in 1898 created the first National Association for the Study of epilepsy and the care and treatment of epileptics in the USA.


Go to the 2000s and you had anti-seizure meds, resection surgery (removing the damaged part and trying to heal afterward. That was the treatment I had back in 2007), and the neurostimulation device implant VNS (Vagus Nerve stimulation) as your treatments.

 If you speed up to the 2010s and now you have an endless amount of treatment types. Your normal resection surgeries, LITT (Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy), stereotactic radiosurgery, and new types of neurostimulation device implants like RNS (Responsive Neurostimulation), and DBS (deep brain stimulation).


The University of Iowa Hospital just made a breakthrough in a study about SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy). The study has made it possible for doctors in the near future, to predict who is at a higher risk of SUDEP.


This all means that the belief that epilepsy is spiritual, or caused by a demon is false and that there are now multiple studies proving that.  There are new ways to treat epilepsy. Making it so that treatment for epilepsy is not just anti-seizure meds and resection surgery anymore.

( this is made for informational use and this is a personal experience-based article. If you have any specific personal concerns or questions, please call your neurology specialist doctor, nurse, or local doctor for more information.)

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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