Anxiety and depressive symptoms in adolescents and young adults with epilepsy: The role of illness beliefs and social factors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: This study examined (1) the prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms among adolescents and young adults (AYA) with epilepsy and (2) demographic and medical characteristics, illness beliefs, and social factors associated with anxiety and depressive symptoms to guide intervention development.

METHODS: A community-based sample of AYA with epilepsy (n = 179, ages 13-24 years, 39% male) completed online questionnaires measuring anxiety symptoms (GAD-7), depressive symptoms (PHQ-9), illness beliefs (helplessness; acceptance; perceived benefits), and social factors (family functioning; social stigma; connectedness). Participants also reported medical information (epilepsy type; years since diagnosis; time since last seizure; current medications).

RESULTS: Prevalence of clinically significant symptoms of anxiety and depression, 36% and 35%, respectively, was high compared to population prevalence. In multivariable regression models, demographic and medical factors explained only 2% of the variance in depressive symptoms and 6% in anxiety symptoms. Illness beliefs and social factors accounted for a majority of the explanatory power of both models (partial R 2 = 0.37 for anxiety; 0.44 for depression). Specifically, acceptance, family functioning, and social stigma accounted for the greatest variance (p's < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: This study found a high prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms among AYA with epilepsy. Epilepsy variables (seizure type, medications, and years since diagnosis) were not associated with these psychological symptoms. Rather, the majority of variance in symptoms was accounted for by potentially modifiable beliefs and social factors. Interventions that promote illness acceptance, enhance family functioning, and reduce social stigma may ameliorate psychological distress among AYA with epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107737
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.


  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy
  • Illness beliefs
  • Young adult
  • Anxiety/epidemiology
  • Social Factors
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Young Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Depression/epidemiology
  • Epilepsy/complications
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'Anxiety and depressive symptoms in adolescents and young adults with epilepsy: The role of illness beliefs and social factors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this