Female epilepsy patients ‘more likely to suffer psychological distress’

depressed woman

A new study has highlighted the increased risk experienced by female patients of epilepsy-related psychological distress.

Carried out at the University of Melbourne, the research examined data from the Tasmanian Epilepsy Register to determine risk factors for psychological distress in a community-treated sample of patients with epilepsy.

Psychological problems are a common feature of community-treated epilepsy, but understanding of their specific causes remains relatively limited.

To carry out this new study, participants were selected according to whether they were aged 13 years or over and able to complete an individual computer-assisted participant interview, after which they had been diagnosed with epilepsy following a specialist review.

The team was looking for potential risk factors for psychological distress, grouped into four categories – sociodemographic factors, disease-related contributors, psychological issues and treatment-related variables.

Results published in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior revealed that 22 per cent of the participants experienced some form of psychological distress, with 7.8 per cent experiencing very high levels.

A pronounced association between female gender and a higher risk of experiencing mental health issues was highlighted, with comorbid diabetes, intellectual disability and a lack of phenytoin also making a significant difference.

Not only does this study shed new light on the factors that influence the development of these problems among epilepsy patients, it also suggests the use of phenytoin as a protective factor could be an effective avenue for treatment.

The researchers stated: “The few factors identified and the limited variance explained suggest that a focus on epilepsy-related variables is unlikely to explain key influences underlying psychiatric comorbidity in patients with epilepsy.”

It is widely understood that people with long-term health conditions such as epilepsy are more likely to experience depression. Indeed, around one in three people with epilepsy will experience some form of depression during their lives.

Patients who are affected by this will need to liaise with medical professionals to ensure they choose the right treatment pathway, both in terms of the medication they receive and the lifestyle changes they may wish to make.

Posted by Anne Brown