Psychiatric comorbidity and hostility in patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures compared with somatoform disorders and healthy controls

Epilepsia. 2002 Feb;43(2):193-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1528-1157.2002.20901.x.


Purpose: To investigate the prevalence of psychiatric comorbidity and level of anxiety, depression, and aggression in patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures compared with those in patients with somatoform disorders and healthy controls.

Methods: Twenty-three patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNESs) and 23 age- and sex-matched patients with somatoform disorders (SDs) underwent a clinical and a semistructured psychiatric interview (MINI) and filled in the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale (HAD) and the Aggression Questionnaire (AQ). Twenty-three sex- and age-matched controls without psychopathology also underwent a clinical interview and completed the HAD and AQ.

Results: PNES reported more minor head injuries in the past than did the two comparison groups, and more unspecific EEG dysrhythmias were observed on EEG. Twenty-one PNES patients and 18 with SDs had comorbid psychiatric diagnoses. However, the mean number of comorbid psychiatric diagnoses was higher in the PNES group (1.9 +/- 0.3 compared with 1.5 +/- 0.5 in the SD group; p = 0.003). Ten PNES patients additionally had a somatoform pain disorder, and seven had an undifferentiated somatoform disorder. Both patient groups reported significantly higher levels of anxiety, depression, and anger than did the healthy controls, but the PNES patients had significantly higher level of hostility than both comparison groups.

Conclusions: Increased psychiatric comorbidity is known to be associated with poorer response to regular interventions, and hostility is associated with more hostile coping patterns, often interfering with treatment compliance. Thus the increased prevalence of soft neurologic signs and comorbid psychiatric disorders and increased hostility as well in the PNES group, emphasizes that assessment and treatment of patients with PNES referred to a tertiary center requires an integrated approach involving both neurologic and psychiatric resources.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Hostility*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology
  • Norway
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Seizures / epidemiology*
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology*