Patients with epilepsy are at high risk for depression

In a study of adults, researchers found that those with epilepsy were twice as likely as adults without epilepsy to report feelings of depression in the previous year. Depressive thoughts or feelings can result from the many challenges that come with epilepsy, including stigma, fear of disclosure, unpredictable seizures, bullying, financial troubles and relationship changes.

“It’s important for epilepsy patients to understand that depression or anxiety is often a part of their illness,” said Ambica M. Tumkur, M.D., neurologist and epilepsy specialist with Norton Neuroscience Institute. “Learning how to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as psychosocial challenges can help patients cope more effectively.”

For epilepsy patients, depression symptoms may differ from the classic characteristics. For instance, irritability, poor frustration tolerance and irregular or disproportionate emotional reactions may be more prevalent.

Depression symptoms in epilepsy patients can come and go more quickly than typically is seen in others with depression. With symptoms cycling on and off, patients and their families may come to see them as simply mood changes that come with the epilepsy. As a result, the depression goes untreated and significantly affects quality of life.

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