Higher prevalence of psychiatric symptoms found in children with epilepsy

Mar 25, 2011

A newly published report reveals that children with epilepsy are more likely to have psychiatric symptoms, with gender a determining factor in their development. Findings showed that girls had more emotional problems, while boys had more hyperactivity/inattention problems and issues regarding peer relationships. Details of this study in Norwegian children are now available online in Epilepsia, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the International League Against Epilepsy.

Previous studies have shown that children with are at increased risk of developing behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders including anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In a 2003 population-based study, were reported in 37% of children with epilepsy, while children with diabetes and those in the healthy control group were much lower at 11% and 9%, respectively (Davies et al., 2003). Medical evidence, however, has not clearly established when children or teens with epilepsy may be vulnerable to developing psychiatric issues, or how gender influences psychopathology in epilepsy.

The current study used data collected by the Norwegian Health Services Research Centre in a 2002 health profile questionnaire. For children in the 8-13 years of age group, there were 14,699 (response rate of 78%) parents who completed the questionnaire which included questions on topics such as sociodemographic conditions, physical and mental health, and psychosocial conditions. To assess psychiatric symptoms, researchers used the parent report of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) which included questions covering four problem domains—emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity-inattention, and peer problems—and prosocial behavior. The SDQ scores were classified as normal, borderline, or abnormal.

Based upon parent's response to the health questionnaire, 111 children were identified with epilepsy (a frequency of 0.8%), of whom 110 completed the questions included in the SDQ (64 boys and 46 girls). Researchers found that children with epilepsy had a significantly higher frequency of psychiatric symptoms (38%) compared with healthy controls (17%). Boys had a higher risk of psychiatric symptoms than girls in both the epilepsy population and in controls.

Additional risk factors were low socioeconomic status (living in a single family home, family income below poverty limit), having another chronic disease (asthma/diabetes) and epilepsy. However, these independent risk factors contributed with different prominence (odds ratio) to psychiatric problems in boys and girls in the epilepsy population. Having or having had epilepsy was a much stronger risk factor of developing psychiatric problems in girls, whereas boys with epilepsy seemed almost as affected by low socioeconomic status as having epilepsy. The authors say the reason for this remains unclear, however a previous study found a more negative attitude towards having epilepsy in girls than in boys.

Further results showed that 33% of children with epilepsy who were 8-9 years had a borderline/abnormal SDQ score compared with 18% of healthy children of the same age; 41% compared to 16% in the 10-13 year age group. "We chose to divide the groups at the age of ten years as this is the start of preadolescence. The wish 'to be like the others' and to participate in different activities as an equal may be issues of particular importance for children with epilepsy," said Dr. Kristin Alfstad of the National Centre for Epilepsy at Oslo University Hospital in Norway, and lead study author. Analysis also showed an increased risk of psychiatric problems for girls with epilepsy in the 10-13 year age group.

The current study findings confirm the psychiatric co-morbidity of epilepsy reported in prior studies. The authors noted that a lack of a standard age groups and methodology differences makes comparison of these studies difficult. "Multiple risk factors contribute to the high prevalence of , differently in boys and girls, it seems," concluded Dr. Alfstad. "Identifying high risk groups may help clinicians who can implement interventions that prevent more serious psychiatric problems."

Explore further: Mental scars for Ukrainians trapped under shelling

More information: "Psychiatric Symptoms in Norwegian Children with Epilepsy Aged 8-13 Years: Effects of Age and Gender?" Kristin Alfstad, Jocelyne Clench-Aas, Betty Van Roy, Petter Mowinckel, Leif Gjerstad, Morten Lossius. Epilepsia; Published Online: March 25, 2011 DOI:10.1111/j.1528-1167.2011.03038.x

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cognitive problems may appear in children with epilepsy

Nov 09, 2010

Up to half of new cases of epilepsy are in children and adolescents. This is particularly significant because the onset of epilepsy in children can have a lasting impact on their cognitive development, says ...

Study examines the effect of epilepsy on the aging

Apr 16, 2008

An article published in the May 2008 issue of Epilepsia calls attention to the lack of knowledge regarding cognitive aging in chronic epilepsy patients. For persons with chronic epilepsy, little is known about the impact ...

Epilepsy drug may increase risk of autism in children

Dec 01, 2008

A new study shows that women who take the epilepsy drug valproate while pregnant may significantly increase their child's risk of developing autism. The preliminary research is published in the December 2, 2008, print issue ...

Depression twice as likely in seizure sufferers

Mar 16, 2009

A new study published in Epilepsia finds that the prevalence of depression is almost twice as high in people with epilepsy compared to the general population. Among those with epilepsy, racial minorities have seven times ...

Recommended for you

Some people may be pre-wired to be bilingual

1 hour ago

(HealthDay)—Some people's brains seem pre-wired to acquire a second language, new research suggests. But anyone who tries to move beyond their mother tongue will likely gain a brain boost, the small study ...

Elderly brains learn, but maybe too much

10 hours ago

A new study led by Brown University reports that older learners retained the mental flexibility needed to learn a visual perception task but were not as good as younger people at filtering out irrelevant ...

Inpatient psychotherapy is effective in Germany

12 hours ago

Sarah Liebherz (Department of Medical Psychology, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf) and Sven Rabung (Institute of Psychology, Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt) have examined 59 studies conducted between 1977 ...

A game changer to boost literacy and maths skills

14 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Finding the best way to teach reading has been an ongoing challenge for decades, especially for those children in underprivileged areas who fail to learn to read. What is the magic ingredient that will ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.