Your Words Matter: Stigma and Epilepsy

In terms of stigma and epilepsy, it is important to keep in mind that your words matter. The words you choose to use regarding epilepsy can make an immense impact on people living with epilepsy. Check out the table below with information on the words you should and shouldn’t use when discussing epilepsy:

Term(s) to UseTerm(s) to AvoidReasoning
SeizureFitSaying “fit” is derogatory and insulting towards people with epilepsy
Tonic-Clonic SeizureGrand Mal Seizure“Grand Mal” meaning “big sick” is an outdated term
“Tonic-Clonic” is the updated and preferred term
Absence SeizurePetit Mal Seizure“Petit Mal” meaning “little sick” is an outdated term
“Absence” is the updated and preferred term
Atonic SeizureDrop Seizure
Drop Attack
“Drop Seizure” and “Drop Attack” are outdated terms
“Atonic” is the updated and preferred term
Focal Seizure
Focal
Partial Seizure
Partial
“Partial” is an outdated term
“Focal” is the updated and preferred term
Focal Aware SeizureSimple Partial Seizure“Simple Partial” is an outdated term
“Focal Aware” is the updated and preferred term
Focal Impaired Awareness SeizureComplex Partial Seizure“Complex Partial” is an outdated term
“Focal Impaired Awareness” is the updated and preferred term
Person Living with Epilepsy
Person with Epilepsy
EpilepticIf you say “epileptic”, it is like you are saying that the person is defined by their epilepsy when this is not the case
Someone affected by epilepsy
He finds living with epilepsy challenging
Living with epilepsy can be difficult
She has epilepsy
He lives with epilepsy
She “suffers” from epilepsy
He “unfortunately” has epilepsy
She was “struck” by seizures
Epilepsy is awful, horrible, disgusting etc.
Try to stay away from terms that are negative when describing epilepsy

Remember that, in addition to being careful of the words we use, it is important to keep in mind that your words can have a profound impact not only in how other people view epilepsy but also in how people living with epilepsy view themselves and their condition. Let’s all be mindful of what words we use when discussing epilepsy so that we can reduce and prevent the stigma and bullying of people living with epilepsy because together, we can make a difference!

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