Dissociative Seizures

Dissociative Seizures: Causes, Symptoms and Management Strategies

Dissociative Seizures: A Comprehensive Guide

Dive deep into the intricate world of dissociative seizures, exploring their causes, recognizing symptoms, and unveiling effective management techniques for a more informed understanding.

Key Takeaway

Dissociative Seizures
– Definition
– Symptoms
– Causes
– Diagnosis
– Treatment

Part 1: Understanding Dissociative Seizures

Dissociative seizures, also known as psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES), are seizure-like episodes not caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Instead, experts believe that psychological factors like stress, trauma, or other mental health conditions trigger them.. These seizures can be quite distressing and may resemble epileptic seizures, making them difficult to diagnose without proper evaluation.


Dissociative seizures can manifest in various ways and may include the following symptoms:

  • Loss of consciousness: During a seizure episode, the person may appear unresponsive or unaware of their surroundings.
  • Unusual movements: The person may exhibit abnormal movements, such as shaking, jerking, or thrashing.
  • Altered awareness: The person may experience a sense of detachment from reality or feel disconnected from their body.
  • Emotional distress: Dissociative seizures are often associated with emotional distress or psychological turmoil.

Attention: Dissociative seizures are not caused by aberrant brain electrical discharges, unlike epileptic seizures. Instead, they are thought to be a physical manifestation of underlying psychological issues.


The exact causes of dissociative seizures are not fully understood. However, they are believed to be associated with psychological factors and underlying mental health conditions. Some common triggers for dissociative seizures include:

  • Stress: High levels of stress or emotional turmoil can increase the likelihood of experiencing dissociative seizures.
  • Trauma: Past traumatic experiences, such as physical or sexual abuse, can contribute to the development of dissociative seizures.

Mental health conditions: Individuals with certain mental health conditions, like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), depression, or anxiety disorders, may be more prone to dissociative seizures.

Diagnosis of Dissociative Seizures

Diagnosing dissociative seizures can be challenging due to their similarity to epileptic seizures. A comprehensive evaluation is necessary to rule out other potential causes and confirm the diagnosis. The diagnostic process may involve:

  1. Medical history review: The healthcare provider will inquire about the patient’s medical history and any previous episodes.
  2. Physical examination: A thorough physical examination will be conducted to identify any underlying medical conditions.
  3. Electroencephalogram (EEG): An EEG test may be performed to monitor brain activity and detect any abnormal electrical patterns.
  4. Video electroencephalogram (vEEG): In some cases, a vEEG test may be recommended to record video footage alongside EEG data for further analysis.

Psychological evaluation: A mental health expert can evaluate the patient’s mental health and test for underlying disorders.

Treatment for Dissociative Seizures

The primary goal of treatment for dissociative seizures is to address the underlying psychological factors contributing to the episodes. Treatment options may include:

  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychodynamic therapy, can help individuals identify and address the root causes of their dissociative seizures.
  • Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage co-existing mental health conditions that contribute to dissociative seizures.
  • Stress management techniques: Learning stress management techniques, such as relaxation exercises or mindfulness meditation, can help individuals cope with stressors that trigger dissociative seizures.

It is important for individuals with dissociative seizures to work closely with healthcare professionals specializing in neurology and mental health. A multidisciplinary approach involving neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other healthcare providers can provide comprehensive care and support.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article, where we will delve deeper into the management strategies and long-term outlook for individuals with dissociative seizures.

Part 2: Management Strategies and Long-Term Outlook

Managing dissociative seizures involves addressing the underlying psychological factors and developing coping mechanisms to minimize the frequency and impact of the episodes. Here are some strategies that can be helpful:

  1. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy plays a crucial role in managing dissociative seizures. Therapists specializing in trauma-focused therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or psychodynamic therapy can help individuals explore the root causes of their seizures and develop healthier coping mechanisms. The following therapeutic approaches may be beneficial:

  • Trauma-focused therapy: This type of therapy aims to address past traumatic experiences that may contribute to dissociative seizures. Therapists use evidence-based techniques to help individuals process and heal from trauma.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) identifies and modifies negative thought patterns and behaviors that may trigger or exacerbate dissociative seizures. It helps individuals develop healthier coping strategies and improve their overall well-being.
  • Psychodynamic therapy: Psychodynamic therapy explores the unconscious processes and unresolved conflicts that may underlie dissociative seizures. Therapists work with individuals to gain insight into their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
  1. Stress Management Techniques

Stress is a common trigger for dissociative seizures. Learning effective stress management techniques can help individuals reduce the frequency and severity of their episodes. Here are some strategies to consider:

Relaxation exercises: Meditation, guided images, and deep breathing can help you relax and calm down. can promote relaxation and reduce stress levels.

  • Mindfulness meditation: Practicing mindfulness can help individuals stay grounded in the present moment, manage stress, and enhance overall well-being.
  • Physical exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity, such as walking, yoga, or swimming, can help reduce stress and improve mood.
  1. Medication

In some cases, doctors may prescribe medication to manage co-existing mental health conditions that contribute to dissociative seizures. They may prescribe antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or mood stabilizers based on an individual’s specific needs.. It is important to work closely with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate medication regimen.

  1. Supportive Care

Building a strong support network is essential for individuals with dissociative seizures. Connecting with others who have similar experiences can provide validation, understanding, and emotional support. Support groups, both in-person and online, can be valuable resources for individuals seeking support and guidance.

Long-Term Outlook

With proper diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management, many individuals with dissociative seizures experience significantly reduced seizure frequency and improved overall well-being. However, it is important to note that recovery timelines vary for each individual.

It is crucial for individuals with dissociative seizures to continue working closely with healthcare professionals specializing in neurology and mental health. Regular follow-up appointments, therapy sessions, and medication management are essential components of long-term care.


Dissociative seizures are unique seizure-like episodes requiring a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment approach. By addressing the underlying psychological factors contributing to these seizures and developing effective coping mechanisms, individuals can achieve better seizure control and improved quality of life.

Remember, this article is intended for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. If you suspect you or someone you know is experiencing dissociative seizures or any other medical condition, please consult a qualified healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options. Stay informed, stay empowered!




Q: What are the symptoms of dissociative seizures?

A: Dissociative seizures, PNES, which stands for psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, can show up in different ways. Here are some common symptoms:

Loss of consciousness: During a seizure episode, the person may appear unresponsive or unaware of their surroundings.

Q: What are the 4 seizures? 

A: There are different types of seizures, and they can be classified into two major groups: generalized seizures and focal seizures2Generalized seizures affect both sides of the brain, including absence seizures (rapid blinking or staring into space) and tonic-clonic seizures (loss of consciousness, muscle jerks or spasms)2. On the other hand, focal seizures start in one area of the brain and can cause twitching, changes in sensation, confusion, or unresponsiveness3.

Q: What is a functional dissociative seizure? 

A: A functional dissociative seizure is a type of nonpileptic seizure that looks similar to an epileptic seizure but not because of strange electrical behavior

 in the brain. People also call it a psychogenic seizure or a non-epileptic attack. We believe that functional seizures occur because the nervous system temporarily functions abnormally, and techniques that aid in gaining control over them may potentially treat them.

Q: How do you stop stress seizures?

A: While stress reduction may not prevent seizures, it can assist in managing seizures and improve health. Here are some strategies that may help:

  • Take any seizure medication as prescribed.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption.
  • Avoid taking illegal drugs.
  • Talk with a friend or therapist.
  • Maintain a daily routine.
  • Follow a regular sleep schedule.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Keep a journal of things that bother you or lead to stress seizures.
  • Participate in hobbies or other outlets for stress.
  • Practice relaxation activities like yoga, tai chi, or meditation

Remember, working closely with your healthcare professional to develop an individualized plan for managing your stress and preventing seizures is important.

Please note that this information serves informational purposes only and should not substitute professional medical advice. If you have any concerns about your health or experience any symptoms, please consult a qualified healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options.

Let me know if there’s anything else I can help with! 😊


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