Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures
Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) are seizure-like movements, feelings, or behaviors.
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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Things that may raise the risk of this problem 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 this problem in children are:
- Problems in school
- Family conflict
- Problem with others, such as bullying
Problems may be:
- Loss of consciousness
- Staring off
- Muscles that move without control
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. You 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 this health problem.
Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
LaFrance WC Jr, Reuber M, et al. Management of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures. Epilepsia. 2013 Mar;54 Suppl 1:53-67.
Non-epileptic seizures and dissociative seizures. Epilepsy Society website. Available at: https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/non-epileptic-seizure. Accessed November 19, 2020.
Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/psychogenic-nonepileptic-seizures. Accessed November 19, 2020.
The truth about psychogenic nonepileptic seizures. Epilepsy Foundation website. Available at: http://www.epilepsy.com/article/2014/3/truth-about-psychogenic-nonepileptic-seizures. Accessed November 19, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD Last Updated: 4/16/2021