Wednesday, 12 October 2005

Depression linked with increased risk of epilepsy

People who have suffered from serious depression or who have attempted suicide could be at increased risk of developing epilepsy. That’s according to a team of American and Icelandic researchers who said more work was needed to explain the link, which they speculated could be related to levels of the neurotransmitters noradrenalin and serotonin.

"...patients presenting with a new onset unprovoked seizure should be evaluated for a history of suicide attempt and major depression".
Dale Hesdorffer (Columbia University) and colleagues recruited 324 Icelandic adult and child participants (median age 34 years) who had recently suffered two or more seizures that weren’t caused by fever, head trauma or central nervous system infection, thus pointing to a diagnosis of epilepsy. Six hundred and forty-seven age-matched control participants who lacked a history of epilepsy were selected using the Icelandic population registry. All the adult participants were interviewed over the phone to determine whether they had ever suffered from major depression or had attempted suicide. For both groups, only depression or suicide attempts that occurred prior to when the seizure patients had suffered their seizures were counted. The same information was obtained for the child participants by interviewing their parents.

Child and adult participants who had recently experienced unexplained seizures were 1.7 times more likely to have previously suffered from major depression than the control participants (i.e. 12 per cent of the seizure group vs. 7.4 per cent of the control group). And they were 5.1 times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past (i.e. 6.5 per cent of the seizure group vs. 1.4 per cent of the control group). Previous attempted suicide remained significantly more prevalent among the participants who’d recently suffered seizures, even after taking into account rates of prior depression and alcohol consumption.

“Clearly, patients presenting with a new onset unprovoked seizure should be evaluated for a history of suicide attempt and major depression”, the researchers advised.
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Hesdorffer, D.C., Hauser, W.A., Olafsson, E., Ludvigsson, P. & Kjartansson, O. (2005). Depression and suicide attempt as risk factors for incident unprovoked seizures. In Press, Annals of Neurology. DOI: 10.1002/ana.20685.

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

2 comments:

  1. This is interesting in that my 20 year old scholar committed suicide three days before Christmas 2010. He had been suffering with seizures and no one knew why. During one of his last final exams at college, he went into a "seizure?" while taking the exam, but didn't display any physical signs of seizure. His hand written exam made was a couple of paragraphs of words that made no sense to him or the instructor. He didn't leave a note. He shot himself with his wife of a year, while watching Romeo and Juliet and arguing with her. He had been depressed but we thought it was because of the seizures.

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  2. My twenty year old son committed suicide three days before Christmas 2010. He was approaching his senior semester and a full scholarship student. He had been having seizures, hallucinating and had mysteriously "knew" the Greek alphabet and seven additional languages and high levels of scientific math. He couldn't find a doctor to help him. We thought it might be the seizures were causing the depression. He shot himself in front of his wife of a year, while watching Romeo and Juliet, and having an argument with her. This article puts a different perspective on his transition for me.

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