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Do I Have Photosensitive Epilepsy?
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Do I Have Photosensitive Epilepsy?

I gradually become disoriented, twitchy, nauseated, red-faced and very uncomfortable in the following scenarios:

-using the computer at night
-watching television at night
-going to the movie theater
-entering buildings with lots of fluorescent light (e.g. Walmart, Borders)

It's easier for me to do these things in the daytime, but I still get sick if I'm exposed for too long. For example, If I'm feeling well and it's daytime, I can watch television for about one hour before I start to feel a little disoriented. Anything longer than that increases the disorientation exponentially, until I'm sitting there with no idea what I'm watching, unable to follow a basketball game or the plot line of a film. I also notice that my face turns red, particularly my upper cheeks, as though I have a sunburn. This process is sped up at nighttime. Generally, I can only watch television for about fifteen minutes at night before feeling disoriented. It's like I have a "meter" for how long I can withstand any of these scenarios. Once the meter runs out, I have some sort of seizure or intense, jerking reaction. The reaction has only happened a handful of times because I usually prevent myself from being stimulated to that extent. But when it does happen, I end up brain dead for about two days, kind of like a bruise or cut that must heal. At this point, just looking at a computer screen or television will trigger disorientation. Then, the meter refills, and I can slowly increase exposure, but never beyond a couple of hours at the most.

I'm 26 years old, and this has been happening to me for about three years. Never had any problems whatsoever when I was younger. So far, the only way I feel better is if I remove all of the stimulants. Just one day of doing this makes me feel like a completely different person. The problem is that I'm in law school and I rely heavily on my computer for note-taking and assignments, so I usually feel disoriented throughout the day at varying intensities. Beyond this, it's obviously not normal to feel so disoriented and sick when watching television or surfing the web, otherwise no one would do it.

I'm wondering if this is photosensitive epilepsy. It's also triggered in bookstores and museums, but I'm not sure if this is because of the lighting or the overabundance of visual stimulation, which makes me a bit skeptical of epilepsy. Here is the latest instance: my girlfriend and I went to Fernbank Museum in Atlanta, which has an enormous, naturally-lighted atrium. While in the atrium, I felt incredible. I was able to study all of the exhibits there without confusion or discomfort. I remarked to my girlfriend that I felt great and clear. Then, we went into an exhibit that was dark with electric lighting. I was incredibly disoriented within a minute of walking in. I was standing in front of a model of a large animal and was so confused that I couldn't clear my head enough to figure out what it was called until a lady behind me told her child to 'look at the giant turkey.' Not good.

If you're still with me, thank you for reading. Please post any ideas or thoughts on what it could be. One final addition is that I suffer from dissociation and depersonalization, and this is enhanced whenever I'm doing one of the stimulating activities above. Thanks again.

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Avatar_m_tn
Your descriptions resemble a seizure, but you'll need to have a neurological workup to find out if you have epilepsy and whether or not you are photosensitive. The neurologist will have to take into account the depersonalization/dissociation, as well as consider alternative explanations.
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi there. I have photosensitive epilepsy and I have the same problems. If I'm in too much artificial lighting for too long I have an aura and have to sit or lie down. I then have my seizure. I've had this disorder since I was 14. Through research I found out it usually occurs more in children between the ages of 9-17. I'm not too sure on the adult onset. I'd recommend seeing a neurologist, but also tell them about your dissociation and depersonalization too. For me, my seizures are mainly sudden jerking motions on my right side that include small finger twitches, leg kicking as if they were reflexes, arm and head jerking. My skin gets red and sore and it feels as if it was on fire. Hope this information helps. :)
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