New UK research has shed light on the potentially negative impact the “burden of normality” can have on the mental outlook of people with epilepsy.
Led by St James’ Hospital in Leeds, the study aimed to explore the relationship between psychosocial characteristics prior to epilepsy surgery and quality-of-life outcomes following the operation, with the goal of identifying risk factors for poor outcomes that could be targeted with presurgery cognitive behavioral training.
The team wanted to determine why positive seizure outcomes after surgery do not always lead to good psychosocial outcomes. To establish this, data from 77 epilepsy surgery patients was collated from three UK epilepsy centres.
According to data published in the medical journal Epilepsy & Behavior, a number of factors were associated with a lower quality of life post-surgery, including poor levels of mental health and social functioning, while people who fixated on the permanence of their condition and associated epilepsy with social role limitations were also generally worse off.
Adopting a coping strategy based on acceptance prior to surgery was associated with good postoperative quality of life, particularly among those who were shown to be able to make the best of their situation and see challenges in a positive light. High presurgical levels of anxiety, conversely, predicted a worse quality of life.
The researchers concluded: “This data is presented as an important step in identifying psychological red flags for an adverse psychosocial outcome to epilepsy surgery, as exemplified by the concept of the ‘burden of normality’ and specifying targets for preoperative ameliorative psychological advice.”
These findings underline the importance of people with epilepsy receiving the help they need to fully understand and come to terms with the challenges of their condition in a positive, constructive manner.
*’Burden of normality’ refers to the potential psychological challenges facing epilepsy surgery patients in the transition from drug-resistant seizures to remission.
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