Attachment style, relationship quality, and psychological distress in patients with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures versus epilepsy

Epilepsy Behav. 2017 Jan;66:120-126. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2016.10.015. Epub 2016 Dec 28.

Abstract

Objectives: Psychopathology levels are elevated in patients with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) and those with epilepsy. However, patients with PNES report higher rates of trauma and neglect, poorer health-related quality of life (HRQoL), and an increased prevalence of insecure attachment. We examined to what extent attachment style and relationship quality with their main informal carer impact on levels of HRQoL, depression, and anxiety in patients with PNES versus those with epilepsy.

Method: Consecutive patients with PNES (N=23) and epilepsy (N=72) completed questionnaires about attachment style, quality of their relationship with their main informal carer, seizure severity, HRQoL, depression, and anxiety.

Results: Patients with PNES reported higher levels of anxiety and depression and lower HRQoL than those with epilepsy. PNES: No significant correlations were found with HRQoL but depression correlated positively with attachment avoidance, attachment anxiety, and relationship conflict. Anxiety correlated positively with attachment avoidance, attachment anxiety, and relationship conflict, and negatively with relationship depth and support. Epilepsy: HRQoL correlated negatively with seizure severity, depression, anxiety, attachment avoidance, and attachment anxiety. Depression correlated positively with attachment avoidance, attachment anxiety, and relationship conflict. Anxiety correlated positively with seizure severity, attachment avoidance, and attachment anxiety. Correlations between measures of relationship quality and anxiety were stronger in patients with PNES versus those with epilepsy (zs=2.66 to 2.97, ps<0.004). Attachment style and relationship quality explained larger amounts of variance in depression (45%) and anxiety (60%) in the patients with PNES than those with epilepsy (16% and 13%).

Significance: Levels of anxiety and depression were higher in patients with PNES than those with epilepsy. Interpersonal problems were much more closely associated with anxiety and depression in patients with PNES than those with epilepsy. The findings support the use of therapeutic interventions for PNES focusing on attachment and relationship issues.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; HRQoL; Insecure; Interpersonal; PNES.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Object Attachment*
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Seizures / epidemiology
  • Seizures / psychology*
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult