Learned helplessness is the perception that one's behaviour cannot produce a desired outcome. Individuals with intractable epilepsy who have learned that the occurrence of a seizure is beyond their control can develop such a helpless attitude with cognitive, affective and behavioral components which may generalize to many aspects of life. Post-operative testing was done on 42 patients, aged 17-60 years with I.Q. > 80 who had temporal lobectomies (25 R, 17 L) with follow-up 1-14 years (mean 5 years). In addition to seizure outcome, psychosocial adjustment was measured using the Washington Psychosocial Inventory (WPSI) and a structured interview. Three variables of learned helplessness were also assessed: internal or external locus of control, resourcefulness, and depression. Seizure outcome was: completely seizure free, 36%; > 90% improvement, 38% < 90% improvement, 26%. Overall post-operative psychosocial adjustment was good, marked improvement in lifestyle was noted by 85%, personality change for the better by 65% and improved mood by 47%. A transient mood disorder was noted by 38% in the first six months following surgery. Psychosocial adjustment was better in patients who were seizure free or had > 90% reduction in seizures compared to those with < 90% improvement. Two measures of learned helplessness, depression and lack of resourcefulness correlated with poor postoperative psychosocial adjustment. Other variables beside seizure control must be considered in determining the ultimate outcome of epilepsy surgery.