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Research has demonstrated a long standing relationship between chronic medical conditions and anxiety or other related mental health disorders which can worsen the outcomes of a disease and have a significant impact on the overall health of a patient.
At the Mater Centre for Neurosciences the Advanced Epilepsy Unit clinicians have recorded depression rates in over 30 per cent of their epilepsy patients within the first year of diagnosis.
Head of the Advanced Epilepsy Unit Associate Professor Sasha Dionisio said patients with epilepsy are particularly susceptible to mental health conditions due to the uncertain and debilitating impact of the condition.
“As epilepsy is most commonly diagnosed in childhood and adolescence, this is significantly impacting young adults as the condition affects their freedom to go out, ability to drive, formulate relationships and live independently,” Dr Dionisio said.
“Patients with epilepsy can feel stigmatised and withdraw from society which can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. Depressive symptoms and episodes of anxiety are seen as serious triggers for seizures, if untreated they can worsen the condition.
“They may also present as dissociative events—seizure like episodes not triggered by epileptic pathways. This then requires further invasive treatment complicating the way forward for the individual adding further stress and anxiety to their situation.”
Epilepsy Nurse Practitioner Peter Jones said treatment was complicated as not all medicines for depression are compatible with epilepsy medication and some can trigger further seizures.
“We work closely with our psychiatry colleagues to appropriately diagnose and treat these issues, we take a multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of epilepsy providing patients with clinical and mental health support where needed,” he said.
“The Advanced Epilepsy Unit has developed a range of different networks for patients to access support systems from mental health, NDIS funding, support groups and more.”
One such example of an internal support network is the Thrive program, designed to help patients impacted by chronic medical conditions which have affected their social development, everyday life skills and mental health, giving them the tools they need to be active members of society.
“Other networks within Mater include an established partnership with Epilepsy Queensland, art therapy and access to the Emotional Health Unit, however we are always looking for new ways in which we can support our patients on their journey,” Peter said.
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