Causes of pseudoseizures

Psychogenic seizures, also called pseudoseizures, are not thought to be epileptic in nature. Rather, they are believed by many professionals to be caused by mental and psychological stress. Those who suffer from such seizures often resent the term "pseudoseizures," as it implies the seizures are "all in the head." However, this is not true. The real physical symptoms sufferers of pseudoseizures experience are caused by underlying psychological problems.

Triggers for Pseudoseizures

Pseudoseizures can be brought on by many and various triggers, depending upon the patient. These can include academic stress, stress at work, family or relationship stress, fear of being alone, feeling rejected socially by others, and many more. Emotions can also be triggers. Once triggers of pseudoseizures are properly identified in a patient, treatment becomes a bit clearer. Most professionals treat pseudoseizures through a combination of psychotherapy and anticonvulsant drugs.

Symptoms of Pseudoseizures

The signs and symptoms of pseudoseizures resemble those of epileptic seizures. A person suffering from pseudoseizures may experience falls and shaking of the body (similar to convulsions found in epileptic seizures). They may also experience a temporary loss of focus or attention and engage in staring behaviour, also signs of epileptic seizures. Memory lapses, body tremors, fainting, and confusion are also harbingers of both pseudoseizures and epileptic seizures.

Diagnosis of Pseudoseizures

As with epileptic seizures, pseudoseizures are diagnosed by a combination of factors. One is an EEG. In epileptic seizures, patterns of brain waves appear to signal epilepsy. In psychogenic seizures, however, the patient experiences seizure symptoms yet shows no abnormal EEG activity. Video-EEG testing is also common in diagnosing both types of seizures. Patients with pseudoseizures will show signs of seizure activity on the video, yet display an EEG with no abnormal activity.

Causes of Pseudoseizures

As mentioned earlier, pseudoseizures are not caused by any abnormal brain activity, but rather by psychological factors. Pseudoseizures are thought by many professionals to be defence mechanisms that occur when individuals are under severe mental or emotional stress. If the person tries to suppress the stress or trauma, pseudoseizures can develop as a reaction to this attempt at suppression. In addition to being caused by stress in the present, pseudoseizures can also be caused by remembered stress from childhood trauma. As defence mechanisms, pseudoseizures are also coping mechanisms of people under severe stress.

Treatment of Pseudoseizures

Pseudoseizures are not fake. They are real medical manifestations of psychological problems. Therefore, they must be treated medically. Anti-convulsant medications are thought to possibly worsen symptoms of pseudoseizures. The preferred treatment is a combination of psychotherapy/counselling with anti-anxiety medication.

Prognosis for Pseudoseizures

With proper treatment, people experiencing pseudoseizures can expect to live a seizure-free life. Once a person learns the triggers of his seizures, it becomes easier to recognise them before they occur. Learning how to deal with stress or psychological trauma is an important component in a successful recovery from pseudoseizures. Full recovery can be achieved, however, with proper treatment of pseudoseizures.

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About the Author

Susan Maphis has been a freelance writer for more than 20 years. She specializes in travel, parenting and education, among other subjects. Her work has been published on various sites, including,,,, and Maphis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from West Chester University.