ADHD News & Research

New Research Shows ADHD/Epilepsy Link

A recent study finds that nearly 20 percent of adults diagnosed with epilepsy also show symptoms of ADHD — an association not previously documented.

January 20, 2015

Nearly one-fifth of adults with epilepsy also have attention deficit disorder, according to a new study published in Epilepsia, a journal of the International League Against Epilepsy. This research is the first of its kind to demonstrate such a strong connection between ADHD and epilepsy, a group of neurological disorders characterized by seizures that are controllable with medication in about 70 percent of cases.

Part of the Epilepsy Comorbidities and Health (EPIC) research, this study questioned 1,361 U.S. adults with active epilepsy. It used the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale version 6 (ASRS-6) to help identify ADHD symptoms in respondents; the study also collected data on generalized anxiety disorder, depression, seizure frequency, and antiepileptic drugs. It found that 251 of the epileptic adults (18.4 percent) were experiencing ADHD symptoms — a rate more than four times higher than that of the general adult population (4.4 percent).

Additionally, the research showed that adults with epilepsy and ADHD symptoms demonstrated a higher incidence of anxiety and depression, and more frequent seizures. These same adults were more likely to be unemployed, and self-reported a lower quality of life and physical/social functioning than did other survey respondents.

Previously, doctors treating epilepsy may have attributed a patient’s anxiety, depression, or social troubles to antiepileptic medication or other conditions. These findings can help doctors more accurately pinpoint the root cause of various symptoms, and more effectively investigate treatment options. More research is required to determine if ADHD occurs in the same way for people with epilepsy as it does in those without, and to establish a standard protocol for screening adults with epilepsy for ADHD symptoms.