What is a Non-Epileptic Seizure?

H. Colledge

A non-epileptic seizure is a type of fit which, while it may appear the same as an epileptic seizure to an onlooker, has a different underlying cause. Both types of seizures can occur during sleep or while awake, and can lead to a person losing awareness, shaking, making odd movements repeatedly, or losing bladder control. Typically, an epileptic seizure is triggered by abnormal electrical impulses in the brain, but this is not the case for a non-epileptic seizure. In fact there are a number of different causes of seizures of the non-epileptic variety, including fainting, low blood sugar, heart problems, and psychological factors.

Non-epileptic seizures may be diagnosed using EEG video monitoring in which a patient is filmed while their brain's electrical activity is recorded.
Non-epileptic seizures may be diagnosed using EEG video monitoring in which a patient is filmed while their brain's electrical activity is recorded.

As the signs of a non-epileptic seizure resemble those of an epileptic seizure, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. Around a quarter of cases of epilepsy where drug treatment fails to work are later found to have been wrongly diagnosed. Many of these cases are actually non-epileptic seizures, often with psychological causes. When a non-epileptic seizure has a psychological cause it is described as psychogenic. A non-epileptic seizure with a physical cause is classed as organic.

An epileptic seizure is triggered by abnormal electrical impulses in the brain, but this is not the case for a non-epileptic seizure.
An epileptic seizure is triggered by abnormal electrical impulses in the brain, but this is not the case for a non-epileptic seizure.

Some psychogenic non-epileptic seizures are known as dissociative seizures. These are probably the most common form of non-epileptic seizure, and they are triggered by memories of past traumatic experiences resurfacing, sometimes during times of stress or just at random. Emotions are transformed into physical effects, and the person has a seizure over which they have no control. Sometimes seizures begin soon after the original upsetting event, and other times they start years later. It is not always possible to discover what the original event might have been.

A non-epileptic seizure may be caused by a past traumatic event, such as being kidnapped.
A non-epileptic seizure may be caused by a past traumatic event, such as being kidnapped.

Diagnosis of a non-epileptic seizure may be carried out using EEG video monitoring, where an electroencephalogram, or EEG, records the brain's electrical activity while the patient is filmed. If no abnormal electrical events are measured while the patient is seen having a seizure, this helps to confirm that the seizure is non-epileptic. The technique can be useful for studying movements and behaviors during the seizure, as there could be subtle signs that indicate to an expert that the condition is not epilepsy.

The cause of a non-epileptic seizure cannot be seen on a brain scan, so these tests are used to rule out other seizure types.
The cause of a non-epileptic seizure cannot be seen on a brain scan, so these tests are used to rule out other seizure types.

Treatment for non-epileptic seizures varies and, in the case of the organic type of seizure, will depend on what the physical problem is. In the case of a psychogenic non-epileptic seizure, treatment generally involves psychotherapy rather than drugs. Methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, which changes the way a person thinks, can be effective.

A non-epileptic seizure may occur during sleep.
A non-epileptic seizure may occur during sleep.
Patients who experience psychogenic non-epileptic seizures may benefit from psychotherapy.
Patients who experience psychogenic non-epileptic seizures may benefit from psychotherapy.
The electrical impulses of the brain appear as wavy lines on an EEG recording.
The electrical impulses of the brain appear as wavy lines on an EEG recording.
A doctor may recommend an EEG scan for a patient who suffers from non-epileptic seizures.
A doctor may recommend an EEG scan for a patient who suffers from non-epileptic seizures.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments

anon320109

I've had something exactly like that happen but I didn't hear peter griffin. All of a sudden everything started to freeze frame around me. I have been having ringing in my ears for about a year now and I haven't been checked out. It was very, very loud -- so loud I think my mind thought I was dying. I felt like I couldn't breathe and then all of a sudden I woke up on the floor and a dresser was on the floor and a mess was there. My friend was just looking in shock.

That's the only time I can remember this happening to me, though. My girlfriend does say I twitch a lot and shake a lot all the time when I sleep actually.

anon257451

I was recently diagnosed with non-epileptic seizures. At first, I had no clue what happened. I was just sitting on my chair and I passed out. I had a seizure; my little brother witnessed it.

I'm now on meds and it seems like they're helping, Today was the weirdest seizure I've ever had, though. Whenever I had a seizure before, I just got light headed and then I lay down and fell asleep and had my seizure. I had no clue that I even had them until I woke up and somebody told me.

Today, I was sitting on my chair watching TV and all of a sudden I had a really loud ringing in my ears, got dizzy, the room spun, the TV looked like it was being pushed back, (like it was just floating backward).

I got up and walked to my bed and lay down and all I could hear was Peter Griffin from “Family Guy” laughing, then I passed out and had a seizure I think. I'm not sure. I'm always asleep when I have them. Has anything similar happened or do you know of something-- anything --to help make that never happen again? I'd appreciate it. I'm sorry for not being really clear. The medication they have me on is making me kind of loopy so I'm not really sure on some of the things that I'm saying.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: