Psychiatric and Behavioural Disorders in Children with Epilepsy (ILAE Task Force Report): When should pharmacotherapy for psychiatric/behavioural disorders in children with epilepsy be prescribed?

Frank Besag*, Albert Aldenkamp, Rochelle Caplan, David W. Dunn, Giuseppe Gobbi, Matti Sillanpaa

*Corresponding author for this work

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The most important factor in deciding whether psychotropic medication should be prescribed is a meticulous assessment of the possible causes of the behavioural/psychiatric disturbance. This assessment should include a consideration of the possible roles of the epilepsy itself, treatment of the epilepsy, associated brain damage or dysfunction, reactions to the epilepsy and causes that are unrelated to the epilepsy or its treatment. If the epilepsy itself or antiepileptic drug treatment are responsible for the disorder then a review of antiepileptic medication is required. Contrary to popular myth, most psychotropic medications are not contraindicated in children with epilepsy. Treatment with methylphenidate, dexamfetamine, atomoxetine, clonidine or low-dose risperidone are unlikely to precipitate seizures. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors might protect against seizures but some of these are powerful enzyme inhibitors, implying that careful monitoring to avoid antiepileptic drug toxicity is recommended. In many cases, the appropriate approach will be through other interventions such as behavioural management or providing the young person with empowering strategies, implying that psychotropic pharmacotherapy should not be the first-line treatment. However, if assessment indicates that psychotropic medication is necessary, it can be of great benefit.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S77-S86
JournalEpileptic Disorders
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


  • postictal
  • absence
  • CSWS
  • anxiety
  • depression

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