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Psychotherapy May Reduce Frequency of Nonepileptic Seizures

Adherence to psychotherapy linked to lower seizure frequency, higher quality of life, fewer ED visits

psychiatrist and patient

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 9, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Adherence to psychotherapy is associated with improved outcomes in individuals with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES), according to a study published online Jan. 4 in Neurology.

Benjamin Tolchin, M.D., from the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study to evaluate the association between adherence to psychotherapy and outcomes among 105 patients with PNES. Detailed follow-up data (12 to 24 months) were available for 93 participants. Individuals were considered adherent if they attended at least eight psychotherapy sessions within a 16-week period.

The researchers found that 84 percent of adherent patients had ≥50 percent reduction in PNES frequency compared with 61 percent in the nonadherent group. Adherence with psychotherapy was also associated with an improvement in quality of life and a reduction in emergency department utilization with medium effect sizes. There was no difference between the groups in freedom from PNES. When the researchers controlled for potential confounders, the association between adherence and ≥50 percent reduction in PNES frequency remained. Associations were noted between psychotherapy nonadherence and baseline characteristics of self-identified minority status (odds ratio, 7.47) and history of childhood abuse (odds ratio, 3.3).

"There's a feeling among many physicians that there is nothing that can be done to treat these patients, but our study shows that they can receive benefits from psychotherapy if they engage and complete the treatment," Tolchin said in a statement.

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