So what are Non-Epileptic Seizures? You cannot be among the Epilepsy community too long without hearing or seeing the terms Pseudo Seizures, PNES, Conversion Disorder… So what is it? It is actually a subject that has more stigma attached to it than Epilepsy itself. When you research the subject you find that in the simplest terms it is a diagnosis given when someone has what appears to be an epileptic seizure, but there is no evidence of an epileptic seizure happening on the EEG. Many people with Epilepsy, also develop these attacks and it is actually more common in those who also have a learning disability or intellectual disability. Brett was actually diagnosed with this in addition to his epilepsy, when he had a seizure that did not show evidence of a seizure on the EEG. It’s of course debatable if in fact ALL seizures are picked up on the EEG, whether a seizure can happen so deep in the brain that the scalp EEG cannot detect it is factual but also very rare.
To complicate matters, at least where Brett is concerned…
Brett has had seizures detected, recorded on EEG that he babbled, turned to a voice in, Moved his head side to side, cried… but every one of those are rare in an epileptic seizure and common in non epileptic attacks. His Complex Partials as a rule are almost always over 2 minutes, and this is rare as well.
It is estimated that non Epileptic Attacks account for 2-3 per 100,000 people in the United States. Often it is discovered in the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit after multiple medications fail to control the seizures. They are not caused by Epileptic electrical discharges in the brain, and are thought to be caused primarily by a mental health problem, not physical.
Trauma, Negative Life Events, Stress, and ironically even having to deal with a chronic case of refractory Epilepsy can even trigger non epileptic seizures. The treatment is to seek counseling with a trained psychologist who can help identify triggers for the attacks and help the person develop coping strategies to stop them from happening.
Here are some additional websites and resources to help anyone who has been given this diagnosis: