A qualitative examination and theoretical model of anxiety in adults with epilepsy

Amelia J. Scott, Louise Sharpe*, Zoe Thayer, Laurie A. Miller, Toh Wong, Kaitlyn Parratt, Armin Nikpour

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: There is an elevated prevalence of anxiety disorders among people with epilepsy, and the comorbidity of anxiety in epilepsy is associated with adverse medical and psychosocial outcomes. Despite its importance, little is known about what psychosocial or epilepsy factors may be associated with the development of anxiety. The aim of this qualitative study was to determine what factors may explain why some people with epilepsy develop anxiety disorders and others do not.

Methods: Adults with epilepsy were recruited from an outpatient epilepsy service. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 26 participants, 15 of whom reported clinically significant levels of anxiety. Grounded theory analysis was used to develop a theoretical model of anxiety development in the context of epilepsy.

Results: Qualitative analyses revealed a number of processes that appeared to account for the development of anxiety in the context of epilepsy. These included inflated estimates regarding epilepsy-specific risks and excessive attempts to avoid these risks. Such excessive avoidance often resulted in greater interference with participants' role functioning, thus risking ongoing quality of life. A number of premorbid and contextual factors also appear to be implicated in the development of anxiety.

Conclusion: This investigation provides a comprehensive account for the development of anxiety in epilepsy, which is consistent with existing theories of anxiety development and maintenance. Importantly, this model provides a foundation for future research and appropriate treatment strategies to address anxiety in people with epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-104
Number of pages10
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Crown Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • anxiety
  • epilepsy
  • qualitative research
  • grounded theory


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