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Anxiety is common and independently associated with clinical features of epilepsy

      Highlights

      • High anxiety symptoms were seen in 46% of this adult tertiary care epilepsy sample.
      • Focal or unknown epilepsy type was independently associated with high anxiety.
      • Mesial temporal sclerosis was independently associated with high anxiety symptoms.
      • Depression was independently associated with high anxiety symptoms.
      • Nearly 20% of those with high anxiety scores did not have high depression symptoms.

      Abstract

      Objective

      The objective of this study was to assess for independent association of anxiety symptoms with epilepsy localization and other epilepsy-related and demographic factors in a large tertiary care adult epilepsy population.

      Methods

      Among 540 adults, anxiety was measured by the Symptom Checklist 90-R (SCL-90R) anxiety subscale, and detailed demographics, epilepsy localization, and depression scores (SCL-90R) were collected. High anxiety was defined by SCL-90R anxiety T-score ≥ 60. Stepwise multiple logistic regression was carried out to assess for independent association of high anxiety scores with demographic and clinical factors.

      Results

      High anxiety symptoms were present in 46.1% of participants (N = 250). Focal or unknown epilepsy type and depression scores were independently associated with high anxiety (adjusted odds ratios (OR): 2.89 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.33–6.29, p = 0.007) and 2.12 (95% CI = 1.83–2.45, p < 0.001), respectively; depression odds per 5-point increase in scale). Among the focal epilepsy subpopulation, mesial temporal sclerosis was also independently associated with high anxiety, with adjusted OR: 2.12 (95% CI = 1.11–4.04, p = 0.023). Lower education, non-white race/ethnicity, Spanish native language, prior head trauma, antiseizure drug polytherapy, and left focus or bilateral foci (in focal epilepsy) were associated with high anxiety in simple logistic regression, but these associations were not independent. A total of 46 individuals (18.4% of those with high anxiety) scored high for anxiety but not depression. Only 26% of those with high anxiety symptoms were taking a potentially anxiolytic medication.

      Conclusion

      Anxiety symptoms, often without concomitant depression, were highly prevalent in this epilepsy sample and independently associated with focal/unknown epilepsy and mesial temporal sclerosis. These results strongly support the value of screening specifically for anxiety in the epilepsy clinic, to direct patients to appropriate treatment.

      Keywords

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