Antiepileptic drugs in the treatment of psychiatric disorders

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The clinical interface between psychiatry and neurology is epilepsy; the pharmacological expression of this interface is antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), as they are used to treat both epilepsy and psychiatric disorders, especially bipolar disorders. The prevalence of psychiatric comorbidity and the risk of suicidal behavior/ideation/suicide are markedly increased in patients with epilepsy (PWE). Though AEDs receive initial indications for the treatment of epilepsy, currently the majority of AEDs are used to treat pain and psychiatric disorders. Thus in selecting the appropriate AEDs for treatment of PWE, consideration should be given to which AEDs best treat the epileptic disorder and the psychiatric comorbidity. This review is an overview of 21 AEDs in which negative psychotropic properties, approved indications in psychiatry, off-label studied uses in psychiatry, and principal uses in psychiatry are presented with literature review. A total of 40 psychiatric uses have been identified. Of the 21 AEDs reviewed, only 5 have U.S. Food and Drug Administration and/or European Medicines Agency psychiatric approval for limited uses; the majority of AEDs are used off-label. Many of these off-label uses are based on case reports, open-label studies, and poorly controlled or small-sample-size studies. In some instances, off-label use persists in the face of negative pivotal trials. Further placebo-controlled (augmentation and monotherapy) parallel-arm research with active comparators is required in the complex field of AED treatment of psychiatric disorders to minimize the treatment gap not only for PWE with psychiatric disorders, but also for psychiatric patients who would benefit from properly studied AEDs while minimizing adverse effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • Adverse effects
  • Affective disorders
  • Antiepileptic drugs
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • FDA and European Medicines Agency indications
  • Impulse control disorders
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Psychotropic properties
  • Substance abuse
  • Treatment

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