The Comorbidity Between Epilepsy and Psychiatric Disorders: Assessing the Integration of Neuropsychiatric Care

Issue: 
2021
Institution: 
Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan 49401

Psychiatric symptoms are extremely pervasive in epilepsy patient populations and represent a
significant burden on quality of life for people with epilepsy (PWE). Despite growing awareness
of this reality, mental illness (MI) in PWE continues to be under-diagnosed and under-treated.
Recent developments in our understanding of the bidirectional relationship between seizures and
psychopathology inform an increased need for collaboration of healthcare providers from
neurology and psychiatry disciplines. This article highlights present institutional barriers to
diagnosis and treatment of PWE with comorbid MI (PWE/MI), including poor interdisciplinary
communication, limited opportunities for cross-specialty training, and the arbitrary theoretical
divide between neurology and psychiatry, which distinguishes their approach to managing
complex brain disorders. We discuss recent progress towards improving quality of care, both
through advancements in our understanding of the common risk factors for epilepsy and MI and
through practical interventions, such as increased behavioral health screenings. While these
developments have demonstrated a positive impact on patient outcomes, there remains a clear
need for system-wide change.

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