A population-based study

By C. Reilly, P. Atkinson, R.F. Chin, et al. Epilepsy & Behavior 52(2015): 174-179. 


Changes in mood, such as anxiety and depression, occur more often in children with epilepsy than in children without seizures and some other chronic illnesses. Most studies have been done in children with uncontrolled epilepsy or new onset seizures. This study attempts to look at anxiety and depression in a group of children with epilepsy similar to the general population in the United Kingdom.

Description of Study

  • This study looked at symptoms of anxiety and depression in children with active epilepsy in the U.K. as reported by parents and self-report surveys. 
  • The study started with a psychological evaluation of 69 children.
  • Surveys were unable to be completed in 21 children due to the severity or type of cognitive problems.
  • Complete survey data was available in 48 children. 

Summary of Study Findings 

  • Anxiety was reported in children with epilepsy more often than symptoms of depression, with children reporting anxiety more often that parents did. (31% of children versus 15% of parents reported higher levels of anxiety)
    • Children reported anxiety concerns with panic and physical injury most often.
    • Parents reported anxiety with physical injury and separation anxiety most often. 
  • The study found that 21% of the children with epilepsy reported symptoms at risk for depression. 
  • Older children and children with generalized seizures reported more problems with anxiety. Higher depression scores were also seen in children with generalized seizures. 
  • Children reported more concerns with anxiety and depression than parents did. 
  • The surveys were not able to detect mood problems in children with significant intellectual disabilities and epilepsy. 

What does this mean?

Mood problems have been significant concerns for children with epilepsy in many different types of research studies. This study showed that even in a population-based study with children being treated for epilepsy, anxiety and depression were found to occur in 2 to 3 out of 10 children. 

It was interesting to see that children reported more concerns than parents observed or reported. This could suggest that children may be hesitant or uncomfortable talking about their feelings. The finding that older children report more concerns than younger ones could reflect many things, including their ability to express themselves and the types of issues they may be experiencing. 

This article is important as it looks at both parent’s views and self-report by children. The differences found should reinforce the need to assess and talk with children directly, as well as obtain observations and reports from parents and other adults in the child’s life. 

More attention is needed to help children and families with epilepsy to identify, talk about, and get help for emotional concerns. 

Abstract: November 2015

Article published in Epilepsy & Behavior, November 2015.


Authored By: 
Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN
Authored Date: