OBJECTIVES: To assess symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children with severe epilepsy and the associations of trauma symptoms across age, comorbid symptoms, epilepsy-specific factors, parental resources, and psychopathology.
METHODS: Fifty children with severe epilepsy across three different age groups (0-5 yrs., 6-12 yrs., 13-18 yrs.) were assessed with developmental-sensitive and standardized PTSD assessment tools when hospitalized at the tertiary epilepsy center Filadelfia, Denmark. The Diagnostic Infant and Preschool Assessment (DIPA), the Darryl test, and the ITQ questionnaire were used to assess the three age groups, respectively.
RESULTS: Twenty-two percent of the overall sample met the criteria for PTSD, with a prevalence of symptoms increasing with age (6%, 28%, and 40%). Comorbid psychiatric symptoms in preschoolers were present in 81% of the children witnessing a high level of distress in this group. Behavioral difficulties were elevated across all three age groups, and 40% of the children with trauma symptoms had a parent with concurrent psychopathology.
CONCLUSION: To the authors' knowledge, this study is the first to assess trauma symptoms with standardized tests in children with more complicated epilepsies. Trauma symptoms in the group are high; however, there is a need for larger scale studies and research into trauma symptoms in children with more severe epilepsy than those assessable with the included assessment tools. The trauma perspective in severe childhood epilepsy might further clarify the complex associations of biological and contextual variables that affect the children's life quality and enable better preventative treatment options for this group.