Depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts may not be recognized in pediatric epilepsy patients and may occur more frequently than previously thought, a single-center study suggested.
In a group of children and adolescent epilepsy patients ages 10 and older, 41.2% reflected symptoms of depression, 33.3% showed signs of anxiety, and 10.9% said they had suicidal thoughts, reported Anjali Dagar, MD, Tatiana Falcone, MD, MPH, both of the Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues at the American Epilepsy Society virtual annual meeting.
“Thoughts of suicide are common in patients with epilepsy: they are not going to report the thoughts unless they are specifically questioned about the topic,” said Falcone.
“If we are able to identify these patients early, we will be able to refer them to treatment early,” she told MedPage Today. “Screening for suicide in patients with epilepsy can save lives.”
None of these pediatric epilepsy patients had an established psychiatric diagnosis, Dagar pointed out. “Findings of our study should encourage clinicians to screen all epilepsy patients,” she told MedPage Today. “Psychiatric comorbidities can impede appropriate epilepsy treatment, and vice versa.”
Suicidality in young people with epilepsy may be compounded by the fact that death by suicide is the second-leading cause of mortality in people, ages 10 to 24, in the general population, the researchers noted. In an earlier analysis, they analyzed 222,000 online posts on message boards, epilepsy web sites, and social media and found that teens with epilepsy were more than twice as likely as adults to talk about suicide on the Internet.
In the current study, Dagar, Falcone, and collaborators assessed 119 Cleveland Clinic patients who had outpatient visits for pediatric epilepsy or who underwent testing in the pediatric epilepsy monitoring unit. All lacked an established psychiatric diagnosis.