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Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures

(Pseudoseizures, PNES)


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.

The Brain.

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Risk Factors

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
  • Shaking
  • Muscles that move without control
  • Falling


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:


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
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.