All American Stigma

By Neha Kinariwalla

I know we all like to think that wrong
perceptions of epilepsy are a thing of the past. But the 20th
century brought along a new form of cultural fascination. And while much has
been learned about the actual causes of epilepsy, there is something to be said
about the public idea of the disorder. We may not notice this at first but
think back to Walt Disney’s  Snow White
and the Seven Dwarfs,
a little dwarf named Dopey, had seizures at night.

Not all of the depictions of
epilepsy are quite as loveable however. Oliver Stone’s JFK shows a person with epilepsy implicated in the presidential
assassination and people with epilepsy are shown in practically all of the
television series we see today. Movie characters with epilepsy are often out of
their minds, and this contributes to stereotypes. You may think “So? It’s just
a movie, I can tell it’s exaggerated!” But there’s a grave problem in this.
Epilepsy is multifaceted and a layered disorder. The depth to which the
American public understands the disorder is quite shallow, and this leads us to
subconsciously link epilepsy to danger.

Maybe it’s because epilepsy looks a bit scary. It seems violent, and it’s the concept that
people lose control of their bodies- even if it’s for a split second. When we
think of the word seizure itself, it doesn’t have a particularly appealing
connotation. To take hold, to capture by force, to grab…

But the first step to overcoming these presumptions is through
understanding epilepsy.  Stigma and
unfamiliarity of epilepsy is still prominent in the USA. In a study conducted
by Austin J.K in 2002, 22% of American adolescents confessed they did not know
whether or not epilepsy is a contagious disorder (It’s not! For the record). By
bringing these issues to light, we’ll hopefully reduce this All-American

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