ADHD in Adults with Epilepsy

Epilepsy News From: Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Community Corner: December 10, 2014

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or attention deficit disorder, also known as ADHD or ADD, is a common problem in children and teenagers. 

In early December, Joseph Sirven M.D., Editor-in-chief of, interviewed Alan B. Ettinger M.D., MBA. Dr. Ettinger is Professor of Clinical Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and holds many positions in New York hospitals specializing in epilepsy and neuropsychiatry, including Huntington Hospital, Winthrop University Hospital and Long Island at St. Charles Hospital. He discussed results from a study (soon coming out in the journal Epilepsia) of 1400 adults with epilepsy from across the United States to understand attention disorders in adults with seizures and epilepsy.

  • Interestingly, ADHD symptoms were found in one out of five adults with epilepsy!
  • People with any of these symptoms were at greater risk of other problems such as anxiety, depression and poorer quality of life overall.

Symptoms of attention disorders like ADHD or ADD may include difficulty with:

  • paying attention or concentrating
  • completing tasks
  • being organized
  • frequently losing things
  • becoming easily bored
  • impulsiveness
  • hyperactivity or difficulty sitting still
  • restlessness or being fidgety

While these problems are usually diagnosed in childhood, symptoms sometimes persist into the adult years in many people. These problems, if left untreated, can affect a person’s daily life, work, relationships and more.

Diagnosing attention problems in people with epilepsy can be complicated. Seizures or underlying neurological problems from certain brain areas can affect attention and behavior. Side effects of seizure medications can cause many of these symptoms too. If any of these symptoms are observed, it’s important to talk to your epilepsy doctor and primary care team to sort out the effect of epilepsy and other medical problems.  A consult with a psychiatrist or psychologist may also be recommended to evaluate the problems and recommend treatment.

Learn more about epilepsy, mood, and behavior.

Authored by

Patty Obsorne Shafer RN, MN

Reviewed Date

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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