Treatment of anxiety disorders in epilepsy: an evidence-based approach.

Research paper by Marco M Mula

Indexed on: 15 Mar '13Published on: 15 Mar '13Published in: Epilepsia


During recent years growing attention has been paid to psychiatric comorbidities in epilepsy. However, anxiety disorders still remain underrecognized and undertreated. This is largely related to the lack of specific screening instruments and the frequent co-occurrence with mood disorders. Data on treatment are insufficient and clinical practice still relies heavily on individual experience. In this article we review evidence-based treatment strategies for primary major anxiety disorders and adapt them to the specific needs of patients with epilepsy. In panic disorder, a combined approach, namely serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is always indicated during the acute phase. Long-term maintenance treatment may include combined therapy or CBT alone depending on individual cases. For generalized anxiety disorders pregabalin has to be considered first choice for short-term and long-term treatment. In social anxiety disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder SSRIs, in particular sertraline and paroxetine, can be safely used. Obsessive-compulsive disorder represents a serious condition that needs to be approached in a psychiatric setting. CBT should be considered as the first choice in patients with epilepsy. If drug treatment is needed, epileptologists have to be aware that high-dose antidepressants are appropriate and that SSRIs, in particular sertraline, should be considered first choice. In these patients, careful clinical monitoring is indicated, in selected cases, for potential seizure precipitation and side effects due to pharmacodynamics interactions.