When people with epilepsy are more satisfied with their intimate relationships, they are also more likely to better manage their condition, according to a new study.
The findings provide an increased understanding of the significant role that intimate relationships can play in the lives of people with epilepsy. Data gathered from a survey of 88 people with the condition reveal that intimate connections with others are a common concern, and many have difficulties navigating and maintaining relationships.
About 4 million, or 1 in every 26 people in the US, will be diagnosed with epilepsy in their lifetime, according to the Epilepsy Foundation of America. Each day, people with epilepsy and their families use self-management measures like regularly taking medication or monitoring their stress levels to manage their symptoms. If a person with epilepsy isn’t satisfied with their intimate relationships, it could have a negative impact on the person’s self-care.
“One of the most important factors in predicting outcomes for a patient is self-management,” says study coauthor Wendy Miller, associate professor of nursing at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (UPUI).
With greater understanding of the significance of relationship satisfaction in the lives of people with epilepsy, medical professionals can provide better support to those who may benefit from learning skills to maintain healthy connections with partners and strengthen their intimate relationships, thus increasing the chances that they will have better health outcomes.
While researchers have observed the beneficial impacts of romantic relationships in the context of a number of conditions and disorders, little research has focused on the relationships of people with epilepsy, Miller says.
“We know satisfaction with intimate and sexual relationships can have a large impact on any individual’s well-being, but what is less understood is how much it can affect people with epilepsy,” says lead author Amanda Gesselman, associate director for research at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.
“Romantic and sexual relationships have a lot of impact on mental and physical well-being,” she says. “We found that for people with epilepsy, the emotional component of relationships and sexual satisfaction has been linked to better adherence to medical treatment, healthier diets, and exercise.”
Gesselman and Miller previously coauthored a study that analyzed data from internet message boards to identify key concerns related to romantic and sexual relationships for people with epilepsy.
These studies on intimate relationships and the role they play in the lives of people with epilepsy can apply to individuals with other chronic illnesses, Miller says.
“Chronic disease is the number one health issue in the United States, and the necessary treatment over time can be a great expense for patients,” she says. “If we can empower people to self-manage their illnesses better, it could impact the entire health system.”
The study appears in Epilepsy & Behavior. The Barron Quality of Life Award, a grant from the Indiana University School of Nursing, funded the work, which was conducted in collaboration with the Epilepsy Foundation of Indiana.
Source: Indiana University