Developments in depression in epilepsy: screening, diagnosis, and treatment

Expert Rev Neurother. 2019 Mar;19(3):269-276. doi: 10.1080/14737175.2019.1585244. Epub 2019 Mar 1.


Depression is one of the most frequent comorbidities in epilepsy affecting between 17% and 22% of patients, but it is still underdiagnosed and undertreated. Areas covered: This paper discusses recent advances about screening, diagnosis, and treatment of depression in epilepsy taking into account the heterogeneity of clinical scenarios where depression can occur. Expert opinion: A number of screening instruments are now validated for adults with epilepsy, and their psychometric properties are discussed but the NDDI-E is the most practical and cost-effective. Challenges in diagnosing depression in epilepsy are discussed including reasons for the atypical features of mood disorders in epilepsy. Psychological treatments and/or SSRIs are indicated, but the level of evidence is still low. Even if there is no reason to hypothesise that internationally accepted guidelines of treatment of depression outside epilepsy may not be valid, rigorous studies are needed in order to have proper outcome measures. Epilepsy centers should have well-defined care pathways for depression in order to provide access to mental health support when needed.

Keywords: BDI; Epilepsy; NDDI-E; antidepressant drugs; antiepileptic drugs; depression; diagnosis; interictal dysphoric disorder; screening; treatment.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Epilepsy / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychometrics
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors