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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2007 Nov;46(11):1389-402.

10-year research update review: psychiatric problems in children with epilepsy.

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Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago, IL 60614, USA.



To critically review literature published from 1996 to 2007 on psychopathology in children with epilepsy (CWE).


Using Ovid, we searched Medline and PsychInfo databases for original studies on epidemiology, risk factors, clinical characteristics, treatment, and outcome of psychopathology in CWE, ages 0 to 18 years, using the terms "psychopathology," "emotional and behavioral problems," and "mental health problems." We selectively present the findings of studies that are clinically relevant to mental health professionals.


Psychopathology occurs in 37% to 77% of CWE, and attention, internalizing, and thought problems may be specific to epilepsy. Cognitive and linguistic deficits, as well as family factors, have moderating effects on psychopathology in CWE. The association of epilepsy-related variables, including antiepileptic drugs, with psychopathology is inconsistent in cognitively normal CWE. Children with symptomatic epilepsy and devastating epilepsy syndromes have high rates of global developmental delay, hyperactivity, and autistic symptoms. The treatment of psychopathology in CWE integrates standard psychiatric practices.


Epilepsy is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by seizures, psychopathology, cognitive, and linguistic problems. Improved early identification of CWE at risk for psychopathology, evidence-based psychiatric treatment, and multidisciplinary management strategies would advance clinical practice in this highly complex field of pediatric neuropsychiatry.

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