Personality disorder and social development

Notions of an epileptic personality arising out of a hereditary 'taint' persisted well into the present century. The person with epilepsy was said to be explosively aggressive, rigid, egocentric, and irritable. These beliefs were formed by observations of often oversedated inmates of epileptic institutions. The concept of a specific epileptic personality has now largely been abandoned, though it is acknowledged that some features associated with, but not specific to, epilepsy may exercise a powerful influence on personality development. Many of these are consequences of brain damage rather than epilepsy as such. Thus learning difficulties, leading to limited educational opportunity, adult unemployment, and socioeconomic disadvantage may be significant personality determinants. But even in the epileptic individual without brain damage the sedative actions of anticonvulsant medication, the continuing stigma of seizure activity, and the social and occupational constraints are not without their effects on the developing personality.

A particular link between temporal epilepsy and abnormalities of personality has long been debated (7) and certain exaggerated traits (e.g. hypergraphia) are consistently reported,(8) but many of the personality difficulties may be explained by the refractory nature of temporal lobe seizures and the need for increased medication.

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