Stress is a commonly reported seizure precipitant among individuals with epilepsy. Yet, the relationship between stress and seizure susceptibility remains unclear. This study examined the relationship between emotional distress and lifetime seizure load in individuals with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), as well as the potential moderating effect of explanatory style on this relationship. Data were collected from 148 individuals with TLE. Scales 2 and 7 of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory were used as a measure of emotional distress, and explanatory style was measured using the Revised Optimism-Pessimism Scale. Elevated Scale 2 scores were associated with an increase in seizure load only in subjects with Full Scale IQ scores> or =92. An interaction between emotional distress and explanatory style was not observed. Thus, for individuals with higher levels of intelligence, depression may be an important pathway in linking emotional distress to poor seizure control.