Anxiety in epilepsy: a neglected disorder

Milena Gandy*, Louise Sharpe, Kathryn Nicholson Perry, Laurie Miller, Zoe Thayer, Janet Boserio, Armin Mohamed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Anxiety disorders and symptoms are highly prevalent and problematic comorbidities in people with epilepsy (PWE), yet they remain poorly understood and often go undetected. This research aimed to further our understanding about anxiety in PWE. Methods: Study 1 assessed the effectiveness of the commonly utilised yet unvalidated measure (Hospital Anxiety Depression Scale-Anxiety subscale; HADS-A) to identify DSM-IV anxiety disorders in 147 adult epilepsy outpatients. Results: This study found that although the HADS-A had reasonable specificity (75%), its poor sensitivity (61%) and inadequate area under the curve (.68) deemed it unreliable as a screener for anxiety disorders in this population. Methods: Study 2 aimed to further our understanding of the relationship between anxiety disorders, as defined by clinical interview, and psychosocial correlates in PWE. One hundred and twenty-two participants from Study 1 completed a battery of psychosocial measures. Results: Multivariate analysis revealed that the presence of an anxiety disorder was associated with unemployment, which was found to be the only independent predictor. That is, despite the fact that psychosocial factors together contributed to the variance in anxiety disorders none were revealed to be significant independent predictors. Conclusion: These findings add to the literature indicating that the HADS may indicate distress, but does not adequately identify people with anxiety disorders and highlights the urgent need for the development of a reliable anxiety screening measure for PWE. Further, the results suggest that anxiety disorders in PWE are likely to be multiply determined with respect to psychosocial factors and require further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-155
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015


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