Epilepsy and the Risk of Suicide Attempts

October 14, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

A study in the United Kingdom found that people with epilepsy are at increased risk for suicide attempts both before and after they are diagnosed with epilepsy. The authors suggested that this may provide evidence for a “common underlying susceptibility” to epilepsy and the risk of attempting suicide. Patients who were later diagnosed with epilepsy were 2.4 times more likely to attempt suicide and 1.8 times more likely to attempt suicide on multiple occasions than members of a control group who were never diagnosed with epilepsy. The control group was matched for age, sex, and presence of a psychiatric disorder. The relationship between undiagnosed epilepsy and suicide attempt risk held true for people with and without diagnosed psychiatric disorders, as well as those with and without prescriptions for antiepileptic drugs. Based on these findings, the authors recommended that “physicians treating patients with epilepsy need to develop collaborations with mental health professionals to provide comprehensive treatment for their patients with epilepsy.” They highlighted research indicating that antiepileptic drugs may be associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors and that epilepsy may increase suicide risk more than anxiety and alcohol dependence.

Hesdorffer, D. C., Ishihara, L., Webb, D. J., Mynepalli, L., Galwey, N. W., & Hauser, W. A. (2015). Occurrence and recurrence of attempted suicide among people with epilepsy. JAMA Psychiatry73(1), 80–86.