04055--Non-epileptic spells (NES) or Pseudoseizures


What are nonepileptic spells?

Nonepileptic spells (NES), sometimes called psychogenic nonepileptic spells or nervous spells, are behavioral spells that look like epileptic seizures to an observer, but are not actually epileptic seizures.

What is the difference between epileptic seizures and NES?

Epileptic seizures can be described as an electrical storm in the brain.  The electrical storm shows up as changes in EEG brain waves, while you are on EEG monitoring.  NES are not due to an electrical storm in the brain and EEG monitoring remains normal during NES.

How is the diagnosis of NES made?

Combined EEG monitoring and video monitoring (like in an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit) during a spell can distinguish NES from epileptic seizures because of the differences listed above.

What causes NES?

Depression, anxiety, stress, family conflict, or a history of abuse, are common causes of NES.  However, sometimes the exact cause of NES is difficult to determine. 

What if we can’t find an underlying cause?

Counseling from a certified counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist is helpful even if a specific cause of NES cannot be found.  These professionals can teach you techniques for dealing with the spells. Some techniques include relaxation training, visualization, biofeedback, and active problem solving skills. 

Am I faking it?

No. NES are not “faked”.

Can my brain be damaged from NES?

No. The brain has normal electrical activity during a NES.

Can NES affect my activities of daily living?

Even though your nonepileptic spells are not epileptic seizures, the spells can affect your activities of daily living.  When a spell occurs, you should stop what you are doing until the spell passes. You should resume your regular activities as soon as you can after a spell.

Can I also have NES if I already have epilepsy?

Yes. It is possible for people with epilepsy to also have NES, although it is uncommon.  EEG monitoring can determine which spells are epileptic seizures and which are NES.