Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures
Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) are seizure-like movements, feelings, or behaviors.
Treatment may help underlying causes.
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 PNES 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 PNES in children are:
- Problems in school
- Family conflict
- Problem with others, such as bullying
Symptoms of PNES may be:
- Loss of consciousness
- Staring off
- Muscles that move without control
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Th person 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 PNES.
- Nam SO. Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures; beyond differentiating from epileptic seizures. Clin Exp Pediatr. 2021;64(6):282-283.
- Non-epileptic seizures and dissociative seizures. Epilepsy Society website. Available at: https://epilepsysociety.org.uk/about-epilepsy/what-epilepsy/non-epileptic-seizures.
- Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/psychogenic-nonepileptic-seizures.
- The truth about psychogenic nonepileptic seizures. Epilepsy Foundation website. Available at: https://www.epilepsy.com/stories/truth-about-psychogenic-nonepileptic-seizures.
- Adrian Preda, MD
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