Knowledge regarding psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) is limited. This study outlines the spectrum and risk of psychiatric disorders in childhood-onset PNES.
We performed a nationwide matched cohort study of children and adolescents with PNES 5 to 17 years of age at the time of diagnosis between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 2014. Two matched comparison groups were included: children and adolescents with epilepsy (ES) and children and adolescents without PNES or epilepsy, called healthy controls (HC). Outcomes were prevalent psychiatric disorders before index (i.e., date of diagnosis or corresponding date for HC) and incident psychiatric disorders 2 years after index. Relative risks (RRs) were calculated and adjusted for potential confounders.
We included 384 children and adolescents with validated PNES, 1,152 with ES, and 1,920 HC. Among the cases of PNES, 153 (39.8%) had prevalent psychiatric disorders and 150 (39.1%) had incident psychiatric disorders. Compared to the ES and HC groups, children and adolescents with PNES had elevated risks of both prevalent psychiatric disorders (adjusted RRPNES/ES 1.87, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.59–2.21, adjusted RRPNES/HC 5.54, 95% CI 4.50–6.81) and incident psychiatric disorders (adjusted RRPNES/ES 2.33, 95% CI 1.92–2.83, adjusted RRPNES/HC 8.37, 95% CI 6.31–11.11). A wide spectrum of specific psychiatric disorders displayed elevated RRs.
Children and adolescents with PNES are at higher risk of a wide range of psychiatric disorders compared to children and adolescents with ES and HC. A careful psychiatric evaluation is warranted to optimize and individualize treatment.