Epilepsy Patients More Likely to Have Been Abused as Children, Study Finds

Epilepsy Patients More Likely to Have Been Abused as Children, Study Finds

Childhood abuse, both sexual and emotional, is more frequently reported in epilepsy patients when compared to the general population, according to the results of a German study. These findings are in agreement with previous studies and highlight the need for additional vigilance on the familiar settings of children with epilepsy.

The study “Current psychiatric disorders in patients with epilepsy are predicted by maltreatment experiences during childhood“ was published in the journal Epilepsy Research.

Patients with epilepsy have been reported to carry increased rates for psychiatric disorders, particularly those linked to alterations in mood and anxiety.

Previous studies of patients with different psychiatric disorders have suggested that maltreatment during childhood is an important risk factor for the development of this type of disease later in life. However, whether maltreatment is a predisposing factor for the development of psychiatric disorders in epilepsy patients remains largely unaddressed.

In this study, authors investigated “maltreatment experiences and peer victimization during childhood and adolescence in a large sample of patients seeking inpatient treatment in a German tertiary Epilepsy Center.”

They performed structured clinical interviews to assess whether psychiatric comorbidity could be linked to early maltreatment experiences. Furthermore, the authors determined whether patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), the most common form of epilepsy, showed higher prevalence for maltreatment and/or psychiatric disorders, compared to non-TLE patients.

The analysis showed that, compared to a matched control group from the normal population, patients with epilepsy reported more frequent maltreatments during childhood, i.e., more emotional and sexual abuse. At the onset of epilepsy, younger age correlated with higher family and peer maltreatment scores.

Additionally, authors observed that patients with a current psychiatric diagnosis reported higher occurrences of family and peer maltreatment than patients without a psychiatric disorder. TLE patients showed no increased prevalence for maltreatment and/or psychiatric disorders relative to non-TLE, which suggests that childhood maltreatment carries no specific burden for the development of psychiatric disorders in TLE.

The duration and severity of the epilepsy alone also was not sufficient to predict the development of psychiatric disorders in epilepsy patients.

Overall, “our findings suggest that in epilepsy patients’ emotional and sexual childhood maltreatment is experienced more often than in the normal population and that early maltreatment is a general risk factor for psychiatric co-morbidities in this group,” the authors concluded.

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Patricia holds her Ph.D. in Cell Biology from University Nova de Lisboa, and has served as an author on several research projects and fellowships, as well as major grant applications for European Agencies. She also served as a PhD student research assistant in the Laboratory of Doctor David A. Fidock, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Columbia University, New York.

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