July 28, 2020

Co-Existing Psychiatric Disorders and Factors Associated with Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures

Abstract, published in Seizure

Purpose: Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) offer an immense diagnostic and therapeutic challenge. PNES are involuntary episodes that look and feel similar to epileptic seizures but have psychological, not neurological causes. These researchers sought to determine socioeconomic, psychological, and demographic factors in PNES compared to age and gender matched epilepsy patients as well as healthy controls. They also examined psychiatric co-morbidities in PNES and epilepsy patients.

Results: The team conducted the study at a tertiary center in India. This type of center provides the basic range of medical, neuropsychological, and psychosocial services needed to treat people with epilepsy. The doctors enrolled 100 PNES patients (average age 26.1 ± 10.8 years), 100 epilepsy patients (23.5 ± 9.6 years), and 100 healthy controls (28.9 ± 11.0 years). Ninety per cent of participants were female. Significant factors associated with PNES included family history of epilepsy, low education including literate/illiterate status, interpersonal conflict, and presence of co-existing psychiatric disorder, of which major depression was the most common. The suicide risk was significantly elevated in PNES compared to epilepsy patients. PNES disease duration correlated with presence of current depression and suicidality but not with other psychiatric disorders.

Conclusions: These results highlight that several socio-economic and demographic factors are associated with occurrence of PNES. High rates of co-existing psychiatric disorders, including current suicide risk, emphasize the need for a collaborative neuropsychiatric approach.

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