Epileptic Children at Risk for Psychiatric Problems

Children with epilepsy are more likely to have psychiatric problems than others, but boys and girls differ in the types of problems they experience, a new study suggests.

The results show girls are more likely to suffer emotional problems while boys are more likely to experience troubles with their peers and hyperactivity and attention problems , the researchers say.

Girls and older children were particularly at risk of experiencing psychiatric symptoms. A better understanding of what factors contribute to the development of mental health issues in epileptic children may help clinicians target high-risk groups and prevent more serious problems from arising, the researchers say.

Dr. Kristin Alfstad of the National Centre for Epilepsy at Oslo University Hospital in Norway and colleagues examined responses to a health questionnaire administered to 14,699 Norwegian parents who had children ages 8 to 13. About 110 children had epilepsy . Parents reported whether their children experienced emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity-inattention and peer problems, and rated the severity of these problems.

Among children with epilepsy, 38 percent were reported to have psychiatric symptoms compared with 17 percent of children without epilepsy.Having epilepsy or having had epilepsy in the past increased the risk of developing psychiatric symptoms by 4.2 percent in girls and 2.3 percent in boys.

Girls seemed to have a more negative attitude toward their condition than boys, which might explain their higher rate of emotional problems, the researchers said. Previous research also suggests girls with epilepsy are at greater risk for developing anxiety, phobias and depression than are boys, the researchers said.

Thirty-three percent of children ages 8 to 9 with epilepsy experienced psychiatric symptoms compared with 41 percent of children ages 10 to 13.

"The wish 'to be like the others' and to participate in different activities as an equal may be issues of particular importance for [children with epilepsy]. As children grow older and demands on them, both at school and socially, increase, they might experience more problems," the researchers write in tomorrow's (March 25) issue of the journal Epilepsia.

Pass it on: Children with epilepsy are more likely to experiencing psychiatric symptoms, such as emotional problems in girls and attention problems in boys.

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