According to the results of a new study that was conducted by a researcher at Rhode Island Hospital, traumatic brain injury (TBI) can significantly increase a person’s chances of developing major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in patients who also have psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES). The results of this study were published online in advance of print in the journal Epilepsia.
“Some patients who sustain a TBI develop seizures,” W. Curt LaFrance said. “Very often, these seizures are believed to be epileptic in nature, and the patient, therefore, is treated for epilepsy. Later the seizures are found to be PNES. This study demonstrates the prevalence of co-morbid mild TBI and PNES, which could suggest that some patients are being inappropriately treated for epilepsy with antiepileptic drugs, while not being treated for their actual illness: nonepileptic seizures.”
While patients with both PNES and TBI are more susceptible to being diagnosed with depression, they are also more likely to have a history of abuse. This may not be uncommon in PNES patients, but it is worse when TBI is involved. However, both the PNES patients (with and without TBI) were equally likely to be unemployed and in receipt of disability payments.
“Another significant finding from the study was that if a patient had both PNES and TBI, the combination resulted in 2.75 odds increase of having PTSD, and triple the odds increase of having a history of trauma/abuse,” LaFrance said. “This finding illustrates the importance of the ‘double hit’ of emotional and physical traumatic experiences that may occur with abuse and/or a head injury commonly found in the PNES population. This study shows that TBI and PNES are significantly associated with a cluster of diagnoses including depression and PTSD, personality, and/or trauma/abuse history, all of which could have an impact on functioning.”
Depression is a condition that is often treated with dangerous antidepressants like Paxil and Effexor. Both Paxil and Effexor are also known to cause serious side effects, which can include violent and suicidal thoughts and behaviors as well as birth defects in babies whose mothers take the drug while pregnant. Some of those defects include PPHN, spina bifida, neural tube defects and oral clefts. A study like this may go a long toward helping researchers find ways to prevent depression in TBI and PNES patients.