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OBJECTIVE: The present study aimed to examine whether antidepressant initiation increases the risk of hospitalizations and unplanned outpatient visits for seizures. Research has provided conflicting evidence as to whether antidepressant initiation causes seizures. Because epilepsy and depression are comorbid, this remains an important question, particularly in the care of those already at-risk for seizures. METHODS: We used Swedish-register data, including 658,766 antidepressant initiators and 1:1 age-, region-, and sex-matched non-initiators, ages 12-65. We used filled prescriptions to identify any antidepressant and serotonergic antidepressant and inpatient hospitalizations and unplanned outpatient (to avoid coding routine epilepsy maintenance as a seizure) visits to identify seizures, respectively. We first compared seizure visit incidence between antidepressant-initiators and matched non-users in the year following initiation from 2006 to 2013. To examine seizure risk over months pre- and post-initiation, within-individual analyses compared risk during the month one year prior to initiation with all subsequent months. We examined associations for any antidepressant and serotonergic antidepressants, as well as for any initiator and initiators with a history of seizures. RESULTS: Our matched-cohort results showed higher incidence of seizure visits among antidepressant users compared with non-users (e.g., adjusted incidence rate ratio [IRR]=3.14, 95% confidence interval [CI]=2.83-3.49). In within-individual analyses, the months after initiation were associated with higher incidence of seizure visits when compared with the month one year prior to initiation (e.g., one month after initiation IRR=1.96, 95%CI=1.64-2.34), but in individuals with a seizure history we observed weaker or no associations in the months after initiation (e.g., two months after initiation IRR=1.12, 95%CI=0.87-1.45). Notably, irrespective of potential seizure history, the months preceding initiation were associated with the greatest risk (e.g., one month before initiation IRR=2.86, 95% CI=2.42-3.38). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that there may be an elevated risk of seizures during antidepressant treatment, though the period of highest risk was before the initiation of antidepressants. Risk for seizure visits was lower among individuals with a history of prior seizures, which may be reassuring for the clinical care of these patients or indicate lack of treatment seeking following seizures. This study highlights the need to consider seizure risk across time; the failure to account for these dynamics may help account for discrepant findings in previous studies.

Original publication




Journal article


Epilepsy Res

Publication Date





Antidepressants, Epilepsy, Pharmaco-epidemiology, Seizures, Humans, Child, Adolescent, Young Adult, Adult, Middle Aged, Aged, Seizures, Epilepsy, Antidepressive Agents, Hospitalization, Incidence