May 3, 2021

Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures Raise Risk for Suicide in Veterans

Veterans with seizures are at increased risk of death by suicide and suicide related behavior (SRB), according to study results published in Neurology: Clinical Practice.

Cohort studies have shown that epilepsy increases the risk of suicide and SRB independent of antiseizure medications, even after successful epilepsy surgery. Patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) face similar psychosocial challenges as people with epilepsy but do not share neuropathology, and no studies to date have reported the rates of suicide and SRB associated with PNES.

Study researchers drew the data of 801,734 veterans from a cohort study of veterans enrolled in Veterans Health Administration care from 2002 to 2017. They divided them by diagnosis of PNES (n=752), epilepsy (n=10,994) and neither (n=789,988), which they call the general group. Those with both PNES and epilepsy were excluded.

Based on their findings, study researchers concluded, “Veterans with PNES and veterans with epilepsy are both at significantly increased risk for suicide and SRB when compared to the general population.” They added, “Future research will look at whether PTSD therapy and PNES-driven psychotherapy is protective for suicide and whether delayed diagnosis of PNES plays a part in the increased suicidality.”

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