Several studies have assessed the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in epilepsy. They are characterized by considerable heterogeneity, because of differences in the population setting and type of study. A non-systematic review of the literature allows us to draw some useful, although not definite, conclusions. Six per cent of people with epilepsy in the general population appear to suffer from a psychiatric disorder, while this rises to 10–20% in populations with temporal lobe and/or refractory epilepsy. Mood disorders are the most common culprit (24–74%), particularly depression (30%), followed by anxiety disorders (10–25%), psychoses (2–7%) and personality disorders (1–2%). This comorbidity appears to be related to endogenous and exogenous (including iatrogenic) factors and to the severity and chronicity of epilepsy. Conditions such as schizophrenia-like psychosis of epilepsy and interictal dysphoric disorder are represented only in epilepsy. Adequate recognition and treatment of psychiatric conditions in epilepsy is essential for patient management because of their considerable burden in morbidity and quality of life.