Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures
Factors that may increase the risk of PNES include:
- History of physical trauma, especially sexual trauma
- A recent emotionally painful event like a divorce or the death of a loved one
- Family history of epilepsy
Risk factors specific to children include:
- Difficulties in school
- Family conflict
- Problem with others, such as bullying
PNES symptoms may include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Shaking, uncontrollable muscle movement, and falling
PNES may differ from epilepsy in that PNES does not usually include:
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Confusion, headache, and fatigue that occurs after an epileptic seizure
- Eyes that remain open
- Inability to speak
You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. The doctor will ask questions about the seizure. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a doctor that specializes in the nervous system and the brain.
The doctor may suspect PNES based on your responses. To rule out other types of seizures the doctor may order:
- Blood tests and brain scans may be done. They can look for potential causes of seizures.
- EEG—shows the electrical activity in the brain. PNES is confirmed if there is a seizure without a change in EEG.
Treatment is focused on the cause of PNES. Mental health problems may be treated with one or both of the following:
- Medicine—for mental health, not for seizure itself.
- Psychological therapy—to help cope with stressors, change thought patterns, and learn new behaviors. Types of therapy may include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Group therapy
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) http://www.cureepilepsy.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.familydoctor.org
LaFrance WC Jr, Reuber M, Goldstein LH. Management of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures. Epilepsia. 2013 Mar;54 Suppl 1:53-67
Non-epileptic seizures. Epilepsy Society website. Available at: https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/non-epileptic-seizures#.Vwe7rnpuN8E. Published July 2017. Accessed April 11, 2018.
Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116939/Psychogenic-nonepileptic-seizures . Updated October 16, 2017. Accessed April 11, 2018.
The truth about psychogenic nonepileptic seizures. Epilepsy Foundation website. Available at: http://www.epilepsy.com/article/2014/3/truth-about-psychogenic-nonepileptic-seizures. Accessed April 11, 2018.