Neurologist prescribing versus psychiatry referral: Examining patient preferences for anxiety and depression management in a symptomatic epilepsy clinic sample

Epilepsy Behav. 2021 Jan;114(Pt A):107543. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2020.107543. Epub 2020 Nov 24.


Objective: Anxiety and depression symptoms in epilepsy are common, impactful and under-recognized and undertreated. While prior survey data suggests equipoise among epileptologists for managing anxiety and/or depression via prescribing in the epilepsy clinic versus psychiatry referral, patient preferences are unknown and should potentially influence practice habits among epileptologists. Thus, the primary objective of this study was to determine patient preference for anxiety and/or depression prescribing by neurologists versus psychiatry referral among an adult epilepsy clinic sample of symptomatic patients.

Methods: Management preferences for anxiety and/or depression were surveyed in an adult tertiary care epilepsy clinic. Individuals who screened positive for anxiety and/or depression symptoms on validated instruments during a routine care-embedded learning health system study were recruited. Demographics, social variables, psychiatric treatment history, and treatment priorities and preferences were surveyed. Preference was defined as a slightly greater than 2:1 ratio in favor neurology prescribing or psychiatry referral. The study was powered to assess this primary objective using a two-sample binomial test. Multinomial logistic regression examined an a priori multivariable model of treatment preference (secondary objective).

Results: The study sample included N = 63 symptomatic adults, with 64% women and mean age 42.2 years. Most reported past or current treatment for anxiety and/or depression, and treatment for these symptoms was a high or moderate priority among 65.1% of the sample. Neurologist prescribing was preferred in 83.0% (nearly 5:1) over psychiatry referral among those who chose neurology or psychiatry (as opposed to neither of the two; p < 0.001, 95% CI 0.702-0.919). Overall, 69.8% of the total study sample preferred neurology prescribing. Multivariable modeling indicated preference for neither management option (compared with neurologist prescribing) was associated with low overall treatment prioritization and having never received neurologist medication management. None of the factors examined in the a priori multivariable model were associated with selecting psychiatry referral (compared to neurologist prescribing).

Conclusion: In this sample, most patients indicated a preference for neurologists to prescribe for anxiety or depression symptoms in the epilepsy clinic. Care models involving neurologist prescribing for anxiety and depression symptoms merit further investigation and potential adoption in clinical practice.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Epilepsy; Neurologist; Patient treatment preferences; Psychiatrist.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / drug therapy
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy* / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurologists
  • Patient Preference
  • Psychiatry*
  • Referral and Consultation