Non-epileptic seizures assessment and treatment options can help people deal with this troublesome condition. The Epilepsy Foundation offers help for people experiencing non-epileptic seizures, including assessment strategies and treatment options.
What are Non-Epileptic Seizures?
Non-epileptic seizures have the same symptoms as a typical epileptic seizure, but there are no disruptions or discharges of nerve cells in the cortex of the brain, called cortical neurons. The lack of rhythmic discharges in this region of the brain makes the condition perplexing to physicians and those suffering from NES.
Since the seizures appear like epileptic seizures, many people who have NES are misdiagnosed with epilepsy. There are two main types of non-epileptic seizures that a patient may experience.
- Physiological NES involves structural problems, injuries or other physical conditions that lead to seizures.
- Psychogenetic NES involves psychological factors that lead to seizures.
Assessing non-epileptic seizures can be challenging when psychological factors come into play. However, assessment is easier for physiciological NES. Diagnosis of physiological non-epileptic seizures can involve:
- Migraines involve changes in blood flow along the cortex.
- Transient ischemic attacks are mini-stroke, also called “warning strokes”.
- Hypoglycemia involves an imbalance of blood sugar levels.
- Syncopal episodes arise from heart problems.
- Heart arrhythmias are irregular heartbeats.
- Brain lesions are damaged tissue in the brain caused by injury or disease.
Biological sources of seizures can be treated effectively, possibly reducing the incidence of seizures. Those misdiagnosed with epilepsy may not receive proper treatment for the real underlying source of the condition. Those who have seizures that are psychological in nature may have great difficulty receiving a proper diagnosis.
Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures
Assessment of NES is critical when a person has an underlying medical condition contributing to the episodes. Psychologically based seizures are more difficult to assess. People who are at higher risk for having psychogenic NES include those with patterns of behaviors including but not limited to:
- Knows or used to know someone else who has epileptic seizures.
- Panic attacks
- Depression or other mood disorder
- Histrionic behavior
- Frequent visits to emergency rooms
Assessment for psychological NES looks at difference between biologically based seizures:
- Only occur when others are present
- Injuries are less frequent
- Begin gradually instead of suddenly
- Shrieking and screaming
- Patient becomes alert quickly after the seizure
- Quick recovery from the episode
Treatment for NES depends on the source of the problem. Those who have biologically based seizures benefit from treating the underlying medical condition. Those who have psychogenic NES require different treatments including:
- Psychotherapy with a professional trained in working with patients who have psychogenetic non-epileptic seizures
- Therapy using short-term and long-term goals
- Medication typically used for anxiety or depression
- Relaxation techniques
- Stress management
Successful treatment begins with proper diagnosis. Individuals who accept their conditions realistically have a greater chance for recovery, whether the problem is physical or psychological in nature.