Would you marry an epileptic girl?

Published: July 7, 2011

People with Epilepsy do not reveal their condition, due to prevalent misconceptions related to it.

When I was younger, a pretty girl named Sarah* used to live in my neighborhood. I would often notice her on my way to school. Sarah was like any other girl, but a little quiet. I did not know much about her.

Then, a few years back, her family moved away from our neighborhood.

A few days before they left, the girl’s sister came to my house to meet my mother. She told my mother that her brother, an educated web developer, was not allowing Sarah to get married because she suffered from epilepsy.

Her brother thought that after marriage, her husband and in-laws would not be able to take care of her like Sarah’s own family.

I could not believe that Sarah was suffering from epilepsy. Perhaps my disbelief was natural, because I didn’t know what epilepsy was at the time. Then her sister told me that epilepsy is a hereditary illness sometimes caused by a shock to the brain during childhood.

When I saw Sarah, I could not tell she had such an illness. She seemed like everyone else.

Sarah had been suffering from epilepsy since her childhood, but her brother’s fears had little to do with the actual disease. Sarah’s quiet behavior and her brother’s unwillingness to let her marry had more to do with awareness about epilepsy, than the condition itself.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder which, in Pakistan, is mainly caused due to difficulties during home birth deliveries that are conducted by untrained women. In some cases, during the delivery, oxygen does not reach the brain of the child, due to which his/her brain becomes weak, which causes epilepsy.

A CT scan is needed to figure out which part of the brain is affected. If it does not show in the CT scan, then doctors suggest medicines according to symptoms.

Observing a seizure of an epileptic patient is frightening and confusing. This may be the reason for the many myths and beliefs surrounding epilepsy in the world.

Below are listed some of the misconceptions that surround epilepsy and the truth behind them:

Misconception: A person with epilepsy cannot go to school. This may be due to parental over-protection, or discriminatory attitude of classmates and teachers having little knowledge about the disease.

Fact: Children with epilepsy should get educated in the standard educational system. Tennyson, Byron and Charles Dickens are a few of the famous people who had epilepsy.

Misconception: An person with epilepsy should not get married. The person may feel that he/she will be unable to cope with the commitment of a married life. The family may conceal the disease and get the person married. In-laws may abuse an epileptic daughter-in-law.

Fact: These attitudes are mostly due to lack of awareness of epilepsy. People with this medical condition can lead happy and healthy married lives.

Misconception: A person with epilepsy cannot be employed. The family and the person may think that he is unable to work because he has an illness and is unable to cope with stress.

Fact: An epileptic person should be optimally employed. His work should not require that he drive or go near moving machinery.

Misconception: A person having a seizure should be made to smell a shoe. This will stop the seizure.

Fact: This is a demeaning practice. A person having a seizure should be gently made to lie on his side. Hard and sharp objects should not be put in his/her mouth. If the seizure lasts more than five minutes, he should be taken to a hospital.

Misconception: A person with epilepsy is possessed by a djinn or an evil spirit.

Fact: This is not true. epilepsy is a treatable disease. Seizures are controlled by medication or in a few extreme cases, surgery.

There are many highly placed people who have epilepsy but due to sheer fear they have never come forth to reveal their condition.

Humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi’s open declaration of having epilepsy has been a morale booster for the people with the condition and an eye-opener for the majority of Pakistanis. He has had epilepsy since more than four decades ago and functions at par, rather beyond, the capabilities of a normal person. epilepsy has not hampered his enthusiasm, love and drive to serve humanity.

*Name has been changed

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 7

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that hard and sharp objects should be put in the mouth of an epileptic patient during a seizure. The sentence has been corrected.

M Ayyaz Sheikh

M Ayyaz Sheikh

A final year student of BS Mass Communication who has written articles in various newspapers.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://djdurrani.blogspot.com Saad Durrani

    This is the best thing I have read in a while.Recommend

  • beamlife

    well done!
    hats off to you for illuminating general public about a medical condition which is taken as a stigma!Recommend

  • Ahmed Baksh

    My Sister has epilepsy too but thankfully me and my family dont think like an average Pakistani and its sad to see our people thinking like that.Recommend

  • Fooz

    I liked the information the writer gave about epilepsy, but it kept me wondering..what happened to pretty Sarah??

    At least complete the blog…Recommend

  • http://syedaabidabokhari.wordpress.com The Only Normal Person Here.

    Informative and touchingRecommend

  • kari

    I have had epilepsy my entire life. My husband knew I had epilepsy before I married him. He be came very involved in my life with seizures. He knew exactly what he was getting into before we got married. We will be happily married this September for 22 years, we have raised a beautiful family of 3 kids! We have made an incredible life together and continue to spend the rest of our lives together!Recommend

  • Nadeem Ahmed

    Very informative and important article..Recommend

  • komal

    This is nice informative article and i would like to comment on this coz me myself being a case of 3rd generation epileptic case in my own extended family.In my case its hereditary(from my mother’s side as one of her mam and then my mausi were epileptic).But then epileptic is curable or rather controllable as i speak from my own experience.You just have to follow you neurologist’s instructions and medicines regularly and do regular yoga and pranayam.As in most cases neurologist’s advice patients to regularly take medications atleast for 5-6 yrrs without fail(which i did) and Its been 15 years since i got any epileptic seizure.And today I’m happily married and and have a nice hubby and 2 kids.And I’m glad that my epilepsy didn’t pass on to my kids.Another case epileptic person i can give example who got his disease cured and lead a happy personal and professional life is cricketer Jonty Rhodes of South Africa.Only precaution i still take is as suggested in your article is i dont go near to swimming pool alone and i still dont drive.Recommend


    thanks for awareness about this disease ….!Recommend

  • http://islamabad Maryam

    hard and sharp objects should be put in her mouth?
    i m sorry but this is shouldn’t be the practice…..as i know someone with epilepsy….

    plus the editor needs to read the blog again …a lot of grammatical mistakes….

    Ayyaz your effort to educate people about epilepsy is appreciated! Recommend

  • Manvendra

    This is really thought provoking piece my girl friend is epileptic. But the crux of matter is such persons have to made some life style changes than life is normal But the stigma associated is much more Also the degree of seizures, frequency ( violent or normal) also
    need for continuous medications for years all this seriously effects quality of life. But as can be said there are other qualities in that person that decides the outcome … Its not black and white but with lots of grey areas in some cases surgery helps But person can maintain his./her normal life with job and living just some precautions are needed
    There are several physicians, engineers who are my freind and living normally its just a matter of attitude but in our south asia awareness level is very low … Recommend

  • http://arslan-poetry-blog.blogspot.com/ Arslan

    i like your article…. lack of knowledge and awareness is like living in the dark with no candle to light.Recommend

  • Sonia

    Good informative article..couple of days back one of my colleagues who got married lately told me that his wife is possessed by djinn..(as u have identified in this article too) and they are getting her treatment done with some Buzurg(Baba) and she is getting better. My first reaction was..have u ever consult with a doctor? n he said yes, initially we took her to the doc..GP..but he could not diagnosed anything. I further discussed it with my husband who is a doc aswell..n he said plz ask them to get her tests done..this may be epilepsy..m still trying to convince that colleague but I wonder why he is sticking to the same thing that weird incidents are going on and there is something wrong with us. I wish I can help them. May God bless the couple..Recommend

  • M.Azam Khan

    Well Done………. I like Your Article………. Recommend

  • Hasan Adil

    Excellent Approach by the author. Raising such social issues and educating the people about such conditions. High 5 for you brother!Recommend

  • http://www.habloid.wordpress.com Habiba Younis

    excellent post!
    Its direly needed at this moment to raise awareness about epilepsy, even in the educated class there are countless who confused epilepsy with some demon possession. Recommend

  • Junaid

    I would definitely marry such a girl.. Recommend

  • amjad khan

    The real question is whether any of our great ‘mard-e-momins’ would marry a non-virgn girl??
    i’ve never really understood muslim men’s sick obsession with female virginity,even if a girl is raped our men won’t marry her.isn’t it time our society moved on from its savage cavemen like mentality.no one cares about the majazi khuda’s virginity status on the wedding night but all hell breaks loose if the bride is not a virgin.Recommend

  • naivegirl

    yes my father has had epilepsy since last 30 years but my mother has had the worst life since then . We are a broken family as my so called father because of not crumbling under this disease put up a mean egotistical angry attitude that was and till date perpetual and even at age of 65 he acts in an abnormal manner which has scarred us but me and my two brothers lives are scattered. That man thanks to this disease has ruined my entire childhood and of my brother even though we are all professionals but our survival is always under fear when we are around an epileptic i detest this and shall do this all my life .Recommend

  • http://izzakhalid.wordpress.com Izza Khalid

    It’s amazing how people can twist and turn each and everything, to making it more painful for a person who may already being through enough of it.
    Epilepsy is not a disease which CANNOT be monitored. I’ve had epilepsy since i was young, i didn’t know it back then, but i got diagnosed later on now. The disease does not affect any major decisions in my life, other then the minor ones, which include going to sleep early, taking my medication every night and day, and not missing a dosage. But thats about it.
    Sarah can lead a very normal life, if only her brother has enough knowledge of the disease himself, or if he chooses the right family for her to go into, which should not be dependant on the fact that she suffers from a neurological disease, but essentially because every girl deserves to go into a family which will treat her right!
    Her epilepsy should not be the REASON that she shouldn’t get married, because that’s just fundamentally wrong.
    Also one thing missing in the article, when referring to where people get epilepsy from, is that, it is also mostly genetic. You can inherit it from your parents.Recommend

  • Maheen Rahman


    The thought is very touching.

    I would like to suggest a few corrections though. Epilepsy is not a genetic disorder in most cases, neither is birth trauma a cause in Pakistan. In majority of the cases, it is idiopathic. It can never be diagnosed on a CT scan but on EEG. Family history of the disease however is important. Recommend

  • http://www.issues2011.webs.com M.Ayaz

    dear i guess it is not because of the disease.Its your fathers personality.Don’t only blame the disease.You know Jonty Rhodes,Charles Dickens,Aristotle,Napoleon like people had epilepsy.Its just like how you are going to live your life. No body can be forced to be happy,angry or ill…..
    I think may be some patients have so much savior problem so they just need our help…
    mean egotistical angry attitude don’t come by any disease its just a personality factor..
    Try to help your father its your duty anyways…Don’t be dis heart dear.May ALLAH help you always and give you a happy and joyful life.AMEENRecommend

  • Hira

    Nice article indeed. One of my relatives is epileptic and I reckon she functions even better than me.

    I agree that the public needs to be educated about the disease.

    Epilepsy is not life threatening or contagious, the individuals who have it should be treated with sympathy and understanding, as they are not responsible for their mood swings or changes in behavior.Recommend

  • Ed

    Very Nice and Informative Article.Recommend

  • Talha

    A society which is deep rooted in superstition and the love of all things supernatural would result in such situations.

    That is why science and the understanding of such diseases must be made available for people.Recommend

  • Mohammed Ibrahim Qazi

    Simply fantastic and thought provoking!Recommend

  • Tariq

    my wife is epileptic. we got married ten years ago. we have three kids and we are living a normal and happy life. Recommend

  • Imtiaz

    Id like to point out certain inaccuracies.

    First, all these symptoms pertain to people that have either never been treated or have never seen a doctor. Once treated, 90% of people go on to lead perfectly healthy lives.They are advised on precautionary measures that they need to take if they feel a seizure incoming. (yes, epileptics can feel that, and it starts with a weird taste in the mouth at times).

    An EEG is used for diagnosis, not a CT scan.

    The name of epileptic celebrities is long. And it includes einstein, newton, cupernicus and a lot more famous scientists, literary greats and artists.

    Epilepsy has NOTHING to do with untrained deliveries etc. It happens across the world and cannot be avoided.

    Hard and sharp objects should be “removed” from the mouth, Including hard candy if there is any.

    This article is a good attempt at educating the readers though.Recommend

  • Sarah

    Thank you.Recommend

  • Ziber16

    these are the kind of blogs worth promoting, a very educational article! should be trasnlated in Urdu and published in local newspapers like Awan akhbaar, Ummat, evening special, The daily Jang, Express etc!

    this way this info would be passed on to the massesRecommend

  • Ishtiaq

    I am recently married and Just one month before I came to know that my wife is having seizures.Her history is 25 years old for seizures. Neurologists say that she is having epilepsy but it is not detected in CT scan and EEG reports.I want to know that is there any other test based on that we can decide that either patient is having epilepsy or any other problem.I would like to add that doctor have consulted us epilepsy medicines only.
    Is there any good doctor you can also inform me in Pakistan as currently we are in Saudi Arabia.Recommend

  • FBN

    Very informative. It’s true most people just don’t understand the symptoms of this disease and the fact that an epileptic person is not possessed or dangerous. Epilepsy can be treated and if proper precautions are taken, the patient can function just like any other normal person. I’ve had epilepsy for almost 4 years now and i get grand mal seizures. But because of proper treatment and medication my seizures are now sporadic and last a few seconds. the only precautions that are to be taken are: avoid driving and swimming and sleep for 8 hours each night. Also avoid staying up late at night. That is all an epileptic person needs to do.Recommend

  • Maheen Rahman

    @ Ishtiaq,

    Sir, Usually the EEG reports between seizures are normal. Some abnormal activity can only be detected when a person is having a fit or prolonged ambulatory EEG can detect an epileptic focus. Doctors also perform video telemetry. Not many centers in Pakistan practice that. Sometimes, no cause can be ascertained.

    Your wife should continue the medications that the doctor has prescribed.

    All the best.Recommend

  • http://www.issues2011.webs.com M.Ayaz

    Sir I advice you that you should consult National Epilepsy Centre, JPMC Karachi,is an NGO planned and financed institution focusing on the care of “People With Epilepsy” (PWE).
    INSHALAH they will help you.Here is there facebook link http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=122409712305Recommend

  • Syed Zain Ahmed

    Gr8 & Informative article. Gud going Boy. Waiting for more of these informative pieces from u.Recommend

  • Ammad Qureshi

    That was good attempt, yes I know a girl who is suffering from this disease. Her home mates say that she is possessed by djin or any evil spirit. In a condition of severe seizure that girl’s voice changes to voice of Male as if some one else is speaking instead of her… This is a really confusing state, please can any body will tell me, Is it epilepsy or some thing else.
    Ammad Qureshi

  • http://www.issues2011.webs.com M.Ayaz

    Thnkx every one…and you are most wellcome sarah:)Recommend

  • Ishtiaq


    sorry to disturb again.I tried for correspondence to National Institute of epilepsy and sent a mail to the given address but unfortunately no response.Can you provide any further details to contact there.Recommend

  • http://www.issues2011.webs.com M.Ayaz

    No prob at all sir, follow this link
    and contact:
    Prof. Shaukat Ali
    Department of Neurology, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre
    Rafiqui Shaheed Road Karachi, Pakistan
    Phone: +92 21 992 01300 2429
    E-mail: [email protected]Recommend

  • sana

    m also epileptic patient but its realy hard sumtym to accept it..sum poeple taunts…and i hav listened that it effects one memory…Recommend