August 24, 2023

Eating Disorders Occur at High Rates in Adolescents with Epilepsy and are Associated with Psychiatric Comorbidities and Suicidality

Abstract found on PubMed

Objectives: To assess the occurrence rate, characteristics, and impact of eating disorders (EDs) in adolescents with epilepsy.

Methods: In this observational study, adolescents with epilepsy seen in a single center between 2013-2022 who had comorbid EDs were compared to two control groups of adolescents with only epilepsy and only EDs. Patients with intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder were excluded. Data retrieved included demographic and anthropometric details and clinical variables relating to seizure types, EDs, and psychiatric disorders and behaviors.

Results: A total of 376 subjects were included in the study: 84 adolescents with both epilepsy and eating disorders, 135 with only epilepsy, and 157 with only EDs. The rate of EDs in adolescents with epilepsy was 7.0% (95% CI 5.6-8.5%) overall, 11.3% (95% CI 8.8-14.3%) in females, and 3.1% (95% CI 1.9-4.8%) in males. The median (IQR) time difference between the onset of epilepsy to an ED was 1.6 (0.5-3.6) years. Among adolescents with epilepsy, those with an ED were more likely to be females (p=0.001) and have a lower zBMI percentile (p<0.001). Epilepsy type, seizure frequency, or seizure duration were not specific for having or not having EDs. Amongst adolescents with EDs, those with epilepsy had a younger onset of their EDs (p<0.001), included relatively more males (p=0.007), and consisted of more cases of anorexia-nervosa-restrictive type (p<0.001), and fewer cases of bulimia nervosa (p=0.04) and binge eating disorder (p=0.003). Adolescents with epilepsy and a comorbid ED were more likely to have psychiatric comorbidities such as depression, anxiety, and suicidality than adolescents with only epilepsy or EDs.

Significance: EDs should be suspected and screened for in intellectually intact female and male adolescents with epilepsy, irrespective of their epilepsy type. If disturbed eating behaviors or EDs are identified, further evaluation should be directed at detecting other psychopathologies, including suicidality.

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