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Epilepsy Behav. 2002 Jun;3(3):255-261.

Emotional and affective disturbances in patients with epilepsy.

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Epilepsy Center, Monza, Italy


We sought to assess whether epilepsy is associated with a higher risk of emotional reactions to frustrating stimuli, aggressive behavior, apathy, and depression, and whether these psychiatric patterns are specific to the epileptic condition. The study population consisted of referral patients 17 years and older with idiopathic or cryptogenic epilepsy (i.e., epilepsy not caused by a detectable brain lesion) without significant cognitive dysfunction. A first control was selected for each patient among patients with insulin-dependent diabetes and a second among normal blood donors. Aggressiveness in response to stressful stimuli was assessed with the Picture Frustration Study (PFS). Depression was tested by the Beck Depression Inventory. The Aggressive Behavior Scale (assessing irritability and rumination) and the Apathy Scale were also used. Odds Ratios (ORs) with 95% Confidence Intervals (95% CI) were used as the risk measure. Statistical analysis included between-group comparisons. In patients with epilepsy, the test scores were correlated to the main demographic (age, sex, education, marital status, and occupation) and clinical features (seizure types, disease duration, seizure control, and treatments). The sample included 55 patients with epilepsy, 56 diabetics, and 59 normal individuals. Patients with epilepsy and the two control groups had similar PFS scores and similar aggressiveness. Scores were also similar for the Aggressive Behavior and Apathy Scales, with similar numbers of individuals with aggressive conduct and excess rumination. Patients with epilepsy had higher depression scores. Moderate to severe depression was present in 9 cases (diabetes, 2; blood donors, 1) (P=0.004). Relative to blood donors, the OR for moderate to severe depression (95% CI) was 2.1 (0.1-61.7) for diabetes and 11.3 (1.4-247.8) for epilepsy. No significant correlation was detectable between test scores and patient and disease characteristics.

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