A woman has been diagnosed with a rare condition that causes her to laugh uncontrollably, which has led to some uncomfortable incidents with people confused by her outbursts.
Becca Banks started to experience what her family described as "strange episodes" around three and half years ago. Doctors initially diagnosed her with anxiety and depression and the 35-year-old was put on medication for 18 months.
However, she began to question her initial diagnosis and went to seek an alternative opinion privately. Sister-in-law Jean Stone, 40, said Ms Banks suffered epilepsy as a child and was diagnosed at around seven years old, but "grew out" of this around the age of 16.
Doctors later discovered Ms Banks was suffering from a rare form of epilepsy called gelastic epilepsy. This causes focal or partial seizures with bouts of uncontrolled laughing or giggling without any warning. She also suffers with uncontrollable crying.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Jean said: "Becca had epilepsy as a child, she was initially diagnosed when she was seven but grew out of it by the age of 16. About three and a half years ago she started experiencing strange episodes — the only way we can explain it.
"Becca's form of epilepsy is extremely rare because only one in 200,000 people have it and instead of having seizures where she blacks out or fits, she has uncontrollable laughs or cries because the area of her brain which is affected is the emotional quarter, so to speak.
"At first her doctors diagnosed her with depression and anxiety, she was put on antidepressants and anxiety tablets for 18 months. She obviously gained lots of weight and I think deep down she knew it was a wrong diagnosis and went to seek private help."
Despite her diagnosis, Jean said Ms Banks is "strong, courageous and independent". The 35-year-old is currently in hospital undergoing further tests to see what medication is best and whether she will need surgery.
Jean also said that Ms Banks has faced incidents where people have been confused and then "nasty" towards her, due to their lack of understanding.
She added: "It's hard in different ways. For Becca herself it is embarrassing more than anything because the seizures are not typical seizures someone would recognise. She's had incidents where people have been quite nasty with her because they think she is laughing at them or they just don't understand what is going on."
This type of epilepsy is rare, with only one in 200,000 people suffering from this type and it is also more common in children than it is in adults. Ms Banks is keen to raise awareness of this condition and along with her sister-in-law is organising a charity gala in aid of epilepsy awareness and to raise money for more research.
The black tie charity gala will be held at The Heath Business and Technical Park in their home town of Runcorn in Cheshire on November 12. It will include Ibiza style music, live music from duo Sairasax and Adbongo, prosecco on arrival, hot food, raffles and more.
To purchase tickets for the event, click here.
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