HealthDay News — Nearly one in five adults with epilepsy also has symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a new study finds.

Researchers surveyed almost 1,400 adult epilepsy patients across the United States. They found that more than 18% had significant ADHD symptoms. In comparison, about 4% of American adults in the general population have been diagnosed with ADHD, the researchers noted in their study published online in the journal Epilepsia.

Compared to other epilepsy patients, those with ADHD symptoms were also nine times more likely to have depression, eight times more likely to have anxiety symptoms, suffered more seizures and were far less likely to be employed.

“Little was previously known about the prevalence of ADHD symptoms in adults with epilepsy, and the results were quite striking,” study leader Alan Ettinger, MD, director of the epilepsy center at Neurological Surgery, P.C. (NSPC) in Rockville Centre, New York, said in an NSPC news release.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time ADHD symptoms in adults with epilepsy have been described in the scientific literature. Yet, the presence of these symptoms may have severe implications for patients’ quality of life, mood, anxiety, and functioning in both their social and work lives,” he added.

The findings suggest that doctors may have to take a broader approach to treating some epilepsy patients to improve their family, school and work lives.

“Physicians who treat epilepsy often attribute depression, anxiety, reduced quality of life and psychosocial outcomes to the effects of seizures, antiepileptic therapies and underlying central nervous system conditions. Our findings suggest that ADHD may also be playing a significant role,” said Ettinger, who is also a professor of clinical neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.


Ettinger AB, et al. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms in adults with self-reported epilepsy: Results from a national epidemiologic survey of epilepsy. Epilepsia. 2015; doi: 10.1111/epi.12897.