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Development of mental health dysfunction in childhood epilepsy

      Abstract

      A marked prevalence of mental health dysfunction in childhood epilepsy has been documented in the literature. While several individual risk factors have been identified, which are statistically associated with an impaired mental health outcome, there is a lack of knowledge on the pathways taken by these risk factors on disease development and treatment. The relevant literature of the last decade will be reviewed in this paper to provide evidence for the conceptual framework presented here. Thus, the emergence of mental health dysfunction in childhood epilepsy is analyzed under three levels.
      Pathogenetic causes. These involve both the underlying CNS pathology and the associated epilepsy disorder characterized by specific time of onset duration type and severity.
      Mediators and moderators connecting causes to outcomes. These comprise, firstly, the differentiation between the intervening role of anti-epileptic drugs and their positive psychotropic impact via suppression of seizure activity and transient cognitive impairments, as against their negative psychotropic side-effects; secondly, the psychological processes of adaptation which entail responding to three major demands (adherence to treatment requirements, exercising self-control and lifestyle modification to reduce seizure activity, and coping with the psychosocial stressors secondary to living with epilepsy); thirdly, the age-dependent level of neurocognitive and behavioral functioning; and, fourthly, contextual risks and protective factors within the family and social environment.
      Mental health outcome. This encompasses three major domains: risks for learning disability, for impairments of health-related quality of life, and for psychopathology.
      The proposed framework serves the development and validation of hypotheses and can be applied to testing procedures aimed at investigating the emergence of mental health dysfunction in childhood epilepsy. On the scientific level, it provides an appropriate tool to approach childhood epilepsy in general, whereas on the clinical level, it facilitates the assessment and management of individual patients.

      Keywords

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