Nervous System Home > Nonepileptic Seizures

Nonepileptic seizures -- also known as pseudoseizures or nonepileptic events -- appear to be seizures, but cause no seizure activity in the brain. These seizures may be caused by psychological factors, narcolepsy, Tourette syndrome, cardiac arrhythmia, and other medical conditions. Distinguishing between a true epileptic seizure and a nonepileptic event can be very difficult. It requires knowledgeable health professionals and a thorough medical assessment.

What Are Nonepileptic Seizures?

Sometimes people appear to have seizures, even though their brains show no seizure activity. This type of phenomenon has various names, including nonepileptic events and pseudoseizures. Both of these terms essentially mean something that looks like a seizure but isn't one.
 

Psychogenic Seizures

Nonepileptic seizures that are psychological in origin may be referred to as psychogenic seizures. Psychogenic seizures may indicate dependence, a need for attention, avoidance of stressful situations, or specific psychiatric conditions.
 
Some people with epilepsy have psychogenic seizures in addition to their epileptic seizures. Other people who have psychogenic seizures do not have epilepsy at all. Psychogenic seizures cannot be treated in the same way as epileptic seizures. Instead, they are often treated by mental health specialists.
 

Other Causes of Nonepileptic Seizures

Other nonepileptic seizures may be caused by:
 
Because symptoms of these disorders can look very much like epileptic seizures, they are often mistaken for epilepsy. Distinguishing between true epileptic seizures and nonepileptic seizures can be very difficult and requires a thorough medical assessment, careful monitoring, and knowledgeable health professionals. Improvements in brain scanning and monitoring technology may improve diagnosis of nonepileptic events in the future.
 
(Click Seizures and Epilepsy to learn more about seizures that might not be associated with epilepsy.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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