Epilepsy Ups the Odds of Mental Health Problems

Epilepsy is linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and autism study finds

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) An estimated 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy. New research shows that people with epilepsy may be at greater risk of having anxiety, depression, and autism. 

A study carried out the in the UK found that people with epilepsy were more likely to also have an anxiety disorder, depression, or autism. More research is needed to understand why risk of these disorders is increased in people with epilepsy.

"Discuss any psychiatric symptoms with your doctor"

A recent study, led by Dheeraj Rai, MD, at the University of Bristol, interviewed 7,403 people in England as part of a large scale survey of psychiatric conditions.

They found that 1.2 percent of the people they interviewed had been diagnosed with epilepsy.  Of the people with epilepsy, one in three of them reported having an anxiety disorder or depression. In contrast, only one in six people without epilepsy had anxiety or depression.

Dr. Raj and his colleagues also found that, in this study, people with epilepsy were seven times more likely to have autism. An increased risk of autism was not present for people other chronic medical conditions, like asthma, migraines, or diabetes.

The authors concluded that, “Associations of epilepsy with conditions such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD) point to comorbidities specific to epilepsy that may not be shared by other neurologic conditions.”

dailyRx spoke with Jay Seitz, MD, a clinical neuropsychologist, about the results of this study.

He stated, “ Epilepsy and seizure disorders destroy brain tissue and ASD originates in faulty "wiring" or structural disorders of the brain.  The association is unsurprising as well as for other mental health disorders, too.”

The study did not investigate the reasons why epilepsy may be linked to autism or other disorders.  Past research has shown that chronic medical conditions increase risk for depression and anxiety. 

US rates of epilepsy are estimated at just less than 1 percent.

Dr. Raj’s study was published in the May in Epilepsia.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 16, 2012
Last Updated:
July 27, 2012