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mental-health-primary-care-providersMental health issues such as depression or anxiety are often neglected or misunderstood in people who also have co-morbidity with epilepsy.

This is just one of the subjects of discussion at the sixth annual Queensland Epilepsy Symposium – Through the lifespan. Jointly hosted by Epilepsy Queensland, Griffith University, University of Queensland and St Vincent’s Private Hospital Brisbane, the event will be held at the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital on Friday 20 November.

Professor Harry McConnell, a neuropsychiatrist from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland will be one of the speakers discussing the relationship between depression, anxiety and epilepsy. He will also chair this important symposium on epilepsy which covers a wide array of clinical aspects of epilepsy.

“It is not widely understood that treatment for epilepsy can be significantly complicated by a patient who may also suffer depression or anxiety, with the approaches to both being very different. Seizures, side effects of medications and also the psycho-social aspects of epilepsy can all influence the type of treatments that may be prescribed.

“Unfortunately, people with depression or anxiety are often mis-prescribed or over-prescribed both psychiatric medications and antiepileptic drugs which may do little for their condition or even exacerbate it; therefore there must be a very careful approach taken when treating a patient with epilepsy and depression or anxiety.”

“For example, if someone’s depression or anxiety is caused by the seizures or the after-effect of seizures, then the best treatment is to optimize their seizure medications, rather than prescribe psychiatric medications, which may not help in such circumstances and may even make the symptoms worse. Similarly, there are many common psychological and psychosocial aspects unique to the experience of having epilepsy which must be considered in evaluating or treating people with depression and anxiety.”

“It’s important to look for and treat the root cause of the symptoms and not simply treat the symptoms.”

Professor McConnell

Epileptologist Associate Professor Cecilie Lander will be talking about the issues that arise for women with epilepsy whilst pregnant.

“Unfortunately some anti-epileptic medications may affect the unborn child during pregnancy which can result in birth defects. Of course, this raises some very complicated issues regarding the best management of epilepsy during pregnancy. However if women can see their treating specialist well in advance before getting pregnant, then these risks can be significantly minimized with an appropriate treatment plan.”

Dr Dan McLaughlin will be discussing the challenges for teenagers with epilepsy and the importance of managing their medications at a difficult time.

“Teenagers with epilepsy often struggle during these years. Busy already with education, entering employment and changing social activities, the onset of epilepsy may prove one burden too many. The need for regular medication for what is often an infrequent disorder, sleep deprivation and alcohol intake clash with the normal desire to be just like their peers. “

“The delay in obtaining a driving license is typically a particular source of frustration or misery. How and what to tell their peers about their condition may appear insurmountable. Many of these problems can be resolved with appropriate advice, once they have been acknowledged and discussed,” says Dr McLaughlin.

Professor Helen Cross from the UK will be giving two talks on the important issues of Early Onset Epilepsy and on Medical Cannabis.

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