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Risk factors for psychogenic nonepileptic seizures in children and adolescents with epilepsy.


There is evidence that psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) remain underdiagnosed, especially in children and adolescents. Diagnosis of such events is even more difficult in patients that do have epilepsy, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment and, consequently, iatrogenic complications. This study aimed to evaluate possible risk factors in children with epilepsy who had PNES. Seizures and epileptic syndromes were classified according to International League Against Epilepsy guidelines. Patients were evaluated with a structured psychiatric anamnesis and classified according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition; Classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders: Diagnostic Criteria for Research; and Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children--Epidemiological Version. Risk factors such as head trauma, physical, sexual and psychological abuse, and psychiatric diagnoses, among others, were investigated. Family history of epilepsy and psychiatric illness were detected by review of medical records and/or follow-up interviews. Gender was not a predictive factor, and although older children had a higher risk for PNES, younger children also presented truly psychogenic events mimicking epileptic seizures. The most common associated psychiatric diagnosis was depression. Family histories for epilepsy and psychiatric illness were a frequent finding. An inadequate family environment was more common than sexual or physical abuse. Current knowledge obtained from adults with PNES has been used to understand children with PNES. However, this study of children with epilepsy revealed some similarities and many differences. These features may help to identify predictive factors in a population in need of adequate diagnosis of and therapy for this long-lasting pathology.