August 10, 2022

Felt Stigma May Potentiate the Relationship Between Perceived Stress and Depressive Symptoms in Persons with Epilepsy

Abstract found on PubMed

Purpose: This study assessed the strengths of association among perceived stress, felt stigma, and depression in adults with epilepsy, and evaluated whether felt stigma altered the association between perceived stress and depression.

Methods: This multicenter, cross-sectional study included adults with epilepsy. Depression was assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and perceived stress was evaluated using the 10-item Perceived Stress Scale. Felt stigma was determined using the three-item Stigma Scale for Epilepsy, with individuals categorized as positive for felt stigma if they answered “yes” to at least one of these items. A hierarchical linear regression analysis and an analysis of covariance with interaction terms were performed.

Results: The 316 adults with epilepsy included 171 men and 145 women; of these, 109 (34.5%) reported felt stigma. A hierarchical linear regression analysis showed that perceived stress was the most important correlate of depressive symptoms, followed by felt stigma, being unemployed, recurrence of generalized or focal to bilateral tonic-clonic seizures, and being married. The model explained 54.0% of the variance of BDI scores. Significant interactions between felt stigma and perceived stress on BDI scores was identified in both crude and adjusted models (p < 0.05 each). Specifically, in an adjusted model, BDI scores were more strongly associated with perceived stress in persons with (p < 0.001, partial eta2 = 0.225) than without (p < 0.001, partial eta2 = 0.205) felt stigma.

Conclusions: Perceived stress was the most significant correlate of depressive symptoms in adults with epilepsy, followed by felt stigma. The interaction between perceived stress and felt stigma on depressive symptoms was significant. These findings may help in developing cognitive behavioral therapy for stigma and stress management in persons with epilepsy.