A recent study at the University of Sydney has looked into the prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders in people with epilepsy. The study, carried out by Dr Louise Sharpe and colleagues, was a meta-analysis and looked at 27 previously-published research papers on the subject. Dr Sharpe said: “It is often thought that depression is more common than anxiety in people with epilepsy. Our results suggest that in clinical practice depression is more often diagnosed than anxiety disorders. However, in studies using structured interviews, depression and anxiety were equally common.” The researchers found that 20% percent of people with epilepsy had anxiety disorders, whilst 23% suffered from depression. However, the severity of people’s epilepsy did not seem to affect the prevalence of anxiety or depression. The big difference came with how the anxiety disorder had been diagnosed. Unstructured clinician assessments resulted in a prevalence of 8%, whilst a structured clinical interview gave a prevalence of 27%.“This suggests that people with epilepsy who have anxiety may be under-diagnosed in practice,” said Dr Sharpe. “We need to understand more about anxiety in epilepsy so that it can be identified more readily and effective treatments can be developed.”

The study’s findings also challenge the assumption that psychiatric disorders are more common in people with drug-resistant epilepsy. Researchers said the detection and management of such disorders — particularly anxiety disorders — among people with remains neglected.