Nervous System Home > Psychogenic Seizures

Unlike an epileptic seizure, a psychogenic seizure is psychological in origin -- it looks like a seizure but isn't one. Some people with epilepsy have psychogenic seizures in addition to their epileptic seizures, while other people who experience psychogenic seizures do not have epilepsy at all. These seizures cannot be treated in the same way as epileptic seizures; they are instead treated by mental health professionals.

What Are Psychogenic 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.
 
One type of nonepileptic seizure is called a psychogenic seizure.
 

Why Do They Occur and Who Has Them?

Nonepileptic events 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.
 

Making a Diagnosis

Because symptoms of these psychogenic seizures can look very much like those of epileptic seizures, they are often mistaken for epilepsy. Distinguishing between true epileptic seizures and psychogenic 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 psychogenic seizures in the future.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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