New research suggests that systemic family therapy could be a beneficial tool for adolescents who have both epilepsy and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Conducted by China’s Chongqing Medical University and Kunming Medical University, the study assessed a group of 104 adolescents with epilepsy who also had anxiety or depression, in order to establish whether or not systemic family therapy could help to reduce anxiety and depression scores and lower seizure frequency.
The concept behind systemic family therapy is to address a person’s mental health status by looking at more than just their individual thoughts and behavioural patterns. It extends the scope of treatment to include their relationships with others and the dynamics of their interactions with people close to them.
For the current research, 52 adolescents were treated with only antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), whilst the remaining 52 received both AEDs and systemic family therapy. The researchers assessed the subjects at the start of the study and after three months, in order to identify any changes in epilepsy status and anxiety and depression scores. They also evaluated the participants’ family dynamics at these time points.
The findings, published in the medical journal Psychiatry Investigation, revealed that, after three months, the frequency of epileptic seizures in the systemic family therapy group had decreased significantly more than in the AED only group, and that anxiety and depression scores in this group were also significantly reduced. Family dynamics and functions were also shown to have improved considerably as a consequence of the systemic family therapy, and social support for this group was increased.
The research concludes: “Systemic family therapy combined with AEDs had better efficacy than AEDs alone. Not only was the frequency of epileptic seizures decreased, but the patients’ anxiety and depression were also improved, and the family dynamics, family functions and social support were improved.”
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