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The impact of sexual abuse on psychopathology of patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures



In the present study, we evaluated if the presence of sexual abuse in the clinical history of patients with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) is associated with a different psychopathological profile.

Materials and methods

In a consecutive population of 63 PNES patients, we compared two demographically and clinically matched groups of patients with (no. 15) and without (no. 48) a history of sexual abuse using a comprehensive psychopathological assessment (Beck Depression Inventory, Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, Dissociative Experience Scale, Somatoform Dissociation Questionnaire, and Toronto Alexithymia Scale).


We found that the group of patients reporting sexual abuse is characterized by higher scores on Dissociative Experience Scale (p = 0.003) and Beck Depression Inventory (p = 0.001) with respect to the other group. No significant statistical differences in Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (p = 0.103), Toronto Alexithymia Scale (p = 0.137), and Somatoform Dissociation Questionnaire (p = 0.486) were captured. Moreover, we found that the negative effect on dissociate symptoms was also hampered by the increasing of seizure frequency.


This study reinforces the importance of traumatic screening in the clinical spectrum of PNES in order to implement and improve specific therapeutic strategies.

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We thank all patients for their participation to this study.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Angelo Labate.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standard of the Helsinki Declaration.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participant included in the study.

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Martino, I., Cerasa, A., Vasta, R. et al. The impact of sexual abuse on psychopathology of patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures. Neurol Sci 42, 1423–1428 (2021).

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  • PNES
  • Sexual abuse
  • Dissociative symptoms
  • Depression