Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures



PNES is caused by mental health problems. This may include intense emotions, trauma, or stress. A person may also have other problems, such as depression. It is not caused by problems with electrical signals in the brain.

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Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of PNES are:

  • History of trauma, such as sexual trauma
  • A recent emotionally painful event, such as a divorce or the death of a loved one
  • Family history of epilepsy

Things that may raise the risk of PNES in children are:

  • Problems in school
  • Family conflict
  • Problem with others, such as bullying



Symptoms of PNES may be:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Staring off
  • Shaking
  • Muscles that move without control
  • Falling


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Th person may need to see a doctor who treats the nervous system and the brain.

This information may be enough to suspect PNES. These tests may be done to rule out other types of seizures:

  • Blood tests
  • Brain scans
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) to look at electrical activity in the brain



Treatment is focused on the cause of PNES. Mental health problems may be treated with one or more of these methods:

  • Individual or group mental health therapy—to learn how to cope with stressors, change thought patterns, and learn new behaviors
  • Medicine to treat mental health problems


There are no known guidelines to prevent PNES.

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.