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Nonepileptic Seizures (NES)

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Topic Overview

People with nonepileptic seizures (NES) have periods of seizure-like activity. NES are characterized by a loss of or change in physical function without acentral nervous systemproblem. The loss or change causes periods of physical activity or inactivity that resembleepileptic seizures. A person can have both nonepileptic and epileptic seizures.

NES are usually related to a mental health problem, like an emotional conflict or stress. But, sometimes NES are related to a problem like low blood sugar or the way the heart is working. One example of NES is psychogenic seizures, sometimes called pseudoseizures.

NES symptoms usually appear suddenly and at times of extreme emotional stress. Some doctors believe that the symptoms of NES may be an attempt to reduce anxiety by not recognizing or responding to an emotional conflict.

People with NES have periods of loss of or change in physical activity that resemble epileptic seizures or theauraof a seizure, such as:

  • Impaired or jerky movements.
  • Disturbances in coordination.
  • Temporary blindness.
  • Tunnel vision.
  • Loss of the sense of smell or touch.
  • Tingling sensation to the skin.

People with NES usually exhibit only one symptom. But if episodes recur, the symptom may reappear but in a different location or intensity.

Treatment of NES varies with each person. The goals of treatment for NES are to relieve the stress or an emotional conflict that may be causing the loss of or change in physical function. Physical causes, such as low blood sugar or a heart issue, are treated as needed. Treatment may include medicines,counseling, or specific life changes, such as a job change or assistance at home.

Because NES are not caused by a problem in the brain, medicines that are used to treat epilepsy are not used to treat this condition.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerSteven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology

Current as ofOctober 9, 2017

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