What Are Pseudoseizures?


Quick Answer

Pseudoseizures are psychological events that mimic epilepsy but in reality are triggered by stress or other mental health traumas, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Medical professionals now commonly refer to pseudoseizures as "psychogenic non-epileptic seizures," or PNES, as of 2015.

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Pseudoseizures are often suspected in patients with sudden onsets of convulsions, uncontrollable movements or far-off stares, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. But rather than these seizures coming from abnormal electrical behavior in the brain, as in epilepsy, they are actually caused by stress. War veterans, mothers in custody battles, and overly busy professionals are known to suffer from pseudoseizures.

An estimated 20 percent to 30 percent of patients referred to epilepsy centers for refractory seizures are diagnosed instead with PNES, according to Medscape. The biggest clue in those cases is when patients with seizure-like symptoms show no improvement even after they start taking anti-seizure medication. Medscape ststaes that the condition is fairly common across the general population, with an incidence of more than 200 diagnoses for every 100,000 people. Those with pseudoseizures are not "fakers" to the extent that they are acting out their seizures. Instead, the pseudoseizures are a real physical reaction to an unresolved emotional upset, trauma or stressful event.

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