Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures
Si-co-jenn-ick Non-epp-ill-epp-tic See-zurs
Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) are seizure-like movements, sensations, or behaviors. PNES may seem similar to epileptic seizures. However, they have very different causes.
PNES is caused by mental health problems. This may include intense emotions, trauma, or stress. Other conditions like
depression are also often present. It is not caused by problems with electrical signals in the brain.
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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
Risk factors specific to children include:
Difficulties in school
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:
There is no known ways to prevent PNES.
Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE)
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.familydoctor.org CANADIAN RESOURCES:
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:
...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed April 11, 2018.
Last reviewed April 2018 by
Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 5/11/2018