Symptoms of anxiety and depression in childhood absence epilepsy


Address correspondence to Hal Blumenfeld, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Neurology, Neurobiology and Neurosurgery, Yale University School of Medicine, PO Box 208018, New Haven, CT 06510, U.S.A. E-mail:


Childhood absence epilepsy (CAE) has been recently linked to a number of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional disorders. Identification of affective disorders (anxiety and depression) presents unique challenges in pediatric populations, and successful early intervention may significantly improve long-term developmental outcomes. The current study examined the specific anxiety and depression symptoms children with CAE experience, and explored the role of disease factors in the severity of their presentation. Forty-five subjects with CAE and 41 healthy matched controls, ages 6–16 years, participated in the study. The Behavior Assessment System for Children (BASC) was completed by parents, and the Anxiety and Depression subscales were used to characterize problems. Item analysis within the subscales revealed that children with CAE demonstrated higher rates of symptoms of anxiety (nervousness and thought rumination) and depression (sadness and crying), as well as more general psychosocial problems including isolation and low self-esteem. Disease duration, intractability, and medication effects were not associated with higher rates of affective problems in this limited patient sample. Screening of patients with CAE for comorbid psychiatric disorders early by focusing on specific symptom profiles unique to this population may enhance overall treatment and developmental outcomes.