ADHD Symptoms Prevalent Among Epileptic Adults

Krystle Vermes

Nearly 1-in-5 adults with epilepsy show symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Nearly 1-in-5 adults with epilepsy show symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a recent study published online in Epilepsia.

After examining survey results from a national sample of adults with active epilepsy, Alan B. Ettinger, MD, MBA, professor of clinical neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and his research team determined that the rate of ADHD diagnosis among epileptic adults was 4 times higher than the rate in the general adult population. Additionally, the study authors concluded that epileptic adults with ADHD symptoms were 9 times more likely to have depression and 8 times more likely to have anxiety.

“Little was previously known about the prevalence of ADHD symptoms in adults with epilepsy, and the results were quite striking,” Dr. Ettinger stated in a press release. “To my knowledge, this is the first time ADHD symptoms in adults with epilepsy have been described in the scientific literature. Yet, the presence of these symptoms may have severe implications for patients’ quality of life, mood, anxiety, and functioning in both their social and work lives.”

Approximately 8% to 10% of children and adolescents have ADHD, and some of their symptoms often persist into adulthood. Among the 1361 adult survey respondents with epilepsy, 251 (18.4%) were classified as having significant ADHD symptoms.

“Physicians who treat epilepsy often attribute depression, anxiety, reduced quality of life, and psychosocial outcomes to the effects of seizures, antiepileptic therapies, and underlying central nervous system conditions. Our findings suggest that ADHD may also be playing a significant role,” Dr. Ettinger stated. “…As a next step, we need to validate measures to screen for ADHD specifically in epilepsy and clarify the nature of ADHD symptoms in adults with epilepsy. This will lay the foundation for future trials of treatments that offer the promise of rendering major improvements in the quality of life of adult epilepsy patients.”