Psychiatric comorbidity in African patients with epilepsy – Experience from Sierra Leone
Received: 29 June 2016
Accepted: 05 December 2016
06 May 2018 (online)
Objective Epilepsy is associated with a significant burden of psychiatric comorbidity, including depression and anxiety disorders. However, paucity of data exists regarding the impact of epilepsy on mental health of patients in the setting of sub-Saharan Africa, where these comorbidities are under-recognized and under-treated. We carried out a cross-sectional descriptive study to investigate the prevalence and determinants of depression and anxiety among people with epilepsy in Sierra Leone.
Method A screening tool previously validated in the primary healthcare setting in Zambia was administered to adult patients in our epilepsy clinics in Freetown and Kenema, Sierra Leone. In addition, various socio-demographic and clinical characteristics were recorded for each patient.
Results A total of 142 patients were included. The mean screening score was 16.3 out of 40, with 39 (27.5%) patients scoring above the diagnostic cut-off point for anxiety and/or depression. Variables showing a significant association with the presence of psychiatric comorbidity included female gender (p = 0.015), seizure frequency of >2 per month (p = 0.001), and self-reporting of sedation and/or dizziness as side effects of anti-epileptic medications (p = 0.006).
Conclusion Symptoms of anxiety and depression are common in epilepsy patients in Sierra Leone. Given the significant negative impacts of such comorbidity on those affected, primary healthcare workers in sub-Saharan countries should be trained to inquire about anxiety and depression symptoms in epilepsy patients, and implementation of screening programs should be considered.
1Shared First Authorship.
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