Nonepileptic Seizures (NES)

Overview

People with nonepileptic seizures (NES) have periods of seizure-like activity. NES are characterized by a loss of or change in physical function without a central nervous system problem. The loss or change causes periods of physical activity or inactivity that resemble epileptic seizures. A person can have both nonepileptic and epileptic seizures.

NES are usually related to a mental health problem, like an emotional conflict or stress. But, sometimes NES are related to a problem like low blood sugar or the way the heart is working. One example of NES is psychogenic seizures, sometimes called pseudoseizures.

NES symptoms usually appear suddenly and at times of extreme emotional stress. Some doctors believe that the symptoms of NES may be an attempt to reduce anxiety by not recognizing or responding to an emotional conflict.

People with NES have periods of loss of or change in physical activity that resemble epileptic seizures or the aura of a seizure, such as:

  • Impaired or jerky movements.
  • Disturbances in coordination.
  • Temporary blindness.
  • Tunnel vision.
  • Loss of the sense of smell or touch.
  • Tingling sensation to the skin.

People with NES usually exhibit only one symptom. But if episodes recur, the symptom may reappear but in a different location or intensity.

Treatment of NES depends on what is causing the seizures. Causes such as low blood sugar or infection are treated as needed. Counseling is used to treat psychogenic NES.

Credits

Current as of: May 1, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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