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, 11 (1), 127-49

Behavioral Changes Associated With Epilepsy

  • PMID: 8441366

Behavioral Changes Associated With Epilepsy

O Devinsky et al. Neurol Clin.


Epilepsy can be accompanied by changes in cognition, personality, affect, and other elements of behavior. There is no single epileptic constitution or personality complex. A unifying theme to the behavior in epilepsy is diversity. As one looks at the behavioral traits reported in epilepsy, a specific and consistent pattern is lacking. Rather, extremes of behavior are accentuated: sometimes in one direction, often in both directions. Changes in emotional state are prominent among behavioral features in epilepsy. Some authors describe a prominent deepening or increase in emotionality, whereas others identify a global decrease in emotional life and content. Emotional lability is also reported. Sexuality and libido are typically decreased, but fetishism, transvestism, exhibitionism, and hypersexual episodes also occur. Concerns over morality may be lacking or exaggerated. Patients may be irritable and aggressive or timid and apathetic. The impressive list of people with epilepsy in politics, religion, arts, and sciences suggests a positive expression of this behavioral spectrum. Psychosis, depression, paranoia, and personality disorders may represent a negative pole of epilepsy-related behavioral changes. The most important aspect of behavioral changes in epilepsy for physicians is to recognize and treat dysfunctional behavior. Depression is a common problem that is often unrecognized and untreated. Other treatable problems include impotence, anxiety, panic attacks, and psychosis. Identifying risk factors will, it is hoped, assist in developing methods to prevent these disorders.

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