Epilepsy and social identity: the stigma of a chronic neurological disorder

Lancet Neurol. 2005 Mar;4(3):171-8. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(05)01014-8.


Epilepsy is the most common serious neurological disorder worldwide, affecting about 50 million people. In most people with epilepsy, the disorder is clinically benign. However, because of the stigma associated with having epilepsy, which is common to many cultures, there can be a negative effect on the social identity of people with the disorder, particularly for those living in resource-poor countries. In this paper, we present general theories of stigma, as well as those specific to chronic illness. We relate these theories to the stigma associated with epilepsy throughout history and across cultures. We review research on the relation between stigma and the overall quality of life of people with epilepsy. Finally, we address reduction of the stigma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epilepsy / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Identification*