Anticipatory anxiety of seizures is associated with ictal emotional distress and amygdala onset seizures



Anxiety disorders are a frequent psychiatric condition in patients with epilepsy. Anticipatory Anxiety of Seizures (AAS) is described as a daily persistent fear, or excessive worry of having a seizure. AAS seems to be related to “subjective ictal anxiety” reported by patient. The current study aimed to assess the association between objective ictal features and the presence of AAS.


Ninety-one patients with drug-resistant focal epilepsy underwent a standardized psychiatric assessment, specific for epilepsy, and a pre-surgical long term video-EEG or stereoelectroencephalography (SEEG). We compared seizures semiology and epilepsy features of patients with AAS (n=41), to those of patients without AAS (n=50). We analyzed emotional and motor behavior ictal signs as well as ictal consciousness. We further assessed amygdala ictal involvement in seizures recorded with SEEG (n=28).


AAS was significantly associated with the presence of ictal emotional distress: negative emotional behavior (p<0.01) and negative emotion, explicitly reported to examiner during record (p=0.015), regardless of the ictal level of consciousness. Among the patients recorded with SEEG, we found a significant involvement of amygdala within the seizure onset zone (p<0.01) for patients with AAS.


Higher risk of developing AAS is associated with seizures expressing negative emotional symptoms, independently of ictal consciousness level. Persistent interictal fear of seizures might be viewed as the consequence of a reinforcement of the emotional networks secondary to amygdala involvement in seizures of temporal origin. Physicians should screen for AAS not only to assess the impact of epilepsy on daily life, but also as an interictal biomarker of ictal semiology and emotional network involvement at seizure onset.