Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures Explained

By Brooke Dulka, Ph.D.: For Complete Post, Click Here…

People living with epilepsy are likely well familiar with epileptic seizures, episodes of uncontrolled movements, sensations, and behaviors. However, there is a second type of seizure you should know about if you’ve been diagnosed with epilepsy: psychogenic nonepileptic seizure (PNES). Though the two types of seizures appear similar, PNES does not start in the brain. Rather, psychogenic seizures are thought to be somatic (bodily) manifestations of psychological stress.

About 75 percent of people who experience psychogenic nonepileptic seizures are women. These seizures most frequently start during late adolescence or early adulthood. Notably, it’s possible for a person with epilepsy to experience both epileptic and nonepileptic seizures. However, according to Yale Medicine, a study found that 10 percent of people had been misdiagnosed with epilepsy when, in fact, their seizures were nonepileptic.

“I have epilepsy as well as [PNES],” wrote one member of the MyEpilepsyTeam. “I have to get examined by a doctor every four years to keep my driving license.”

Like an epileptic seizure, PNES can be very stressful. Stress can also trigger seizures. Having the right knowledge is key to reducing stress and managing the disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors of Psychogenic Seizures

One of the biggest risk factors for psychogenic nonepileptic seizures is a preexisting mental health disorder or trauma. Common psychiatric conditions that can precede psychogenic nonepileptic seizures include:

  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder

Researchers have discovered other risk factors for psychogenic nonepileptic seizures. A history of sexual or physical abuse, for example, commonly precedes the onset of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures. One study found that this was particularly true when trauma occurred during childhood or adolescence.

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