Epilepsy, suicidality, and psychiatric disorders: a bidirectional association

Ann Neurol. 2012 Aug;72(2):184-91. doi: 10.1002/ana.23601. Epub 2012 Aug 7.


Objective: A study was undertaken to determine whether psychiatric disorders associated with suicide are more common in incident epilepsy than in matched controls without epilepsy, before and after epilepsy diagnosis.

Methods: A matched, longitudinal cohort study was conducted in the UK General Practice Research Database. A total of 3,773 cases diagnosed with epilepsy between the ages of 10 and 60 years were compared to 14,025 controls matched by year of birth, sex, general practice, and years of medical records before the index date. We examined first diagnosis of psychosis, depression, anxiety, and suicidality in each of the 3 years before and after the index date and annual prevalence of suicide. Referent diagnoses were eczema and acute surgery. The incidence rate ratio (IRR) was calculated for each year in the study period; the prevalence ratio (PR) was calculated for suicidality.

Results: The IRR of psychosis, depression, and anxiety was significantly increased for all years before epilepsy diagnosis (IRR, 1.5-15.7) and after diagnosis (IRR, 2.2-10.9) and for suicidality before epilepsy diagnosis (IRR, 3.1-4.5) and 1 year after diagnosis (IRR, 5.3). The PR was increased for suicide attempt before epilepsy onset (PR, 2.6-5.2) and after onset (PR, 2.4-5.6). Eczema and acute surgery were both associated with epilepsy in the first and third year after diagnosis.

Interpretation: Epilepsy is associated with an increased onset of psychiatric disorders and suicide before and after epilepsy diagnosis. These relations suggest common underlying pathophysiological mechanisms that both lower seizure threshold and increase risk for psychiatric disorders and suicide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology*
  • Epilepsy / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult