Characteristics of Non-Epileptic Seizures
- Seizure-related injuries, such as broken bones, are more typical of epileptic seizures.
- Non-epileptic seizures may begin gradually, with motor activity that slowly escalates in intensity; epileptic tonic-clonic seizures begin abruptly.
- A cry or shriek in the middle or at the end of the seizure is suggestive of a non-epileptic seizure cause, as are motor movements that come and go, that alternately affect the left and right sides of the body.
- Unusual posturing may occur during non-epileptic seizures; facial muscle contractions are uncommon.
- A seizure that extends for many minutes, even an hour or longer, may be nonepileptic, especially if there is no cyanosis and the patient wakes up immediately after the seizure movements stop.
- The recovery period (postictal state) following a nonepileptic seizure is brief; recovery from an epileptic tonic-clonic seizure lasts minutes to hours, characterized by confusion, headache, exhaustion and sleep.
My son has both epileptic seizures and non-epileptic seizures. He is taking epilepsy medications and has a Vagal Nerve Stimulator (VNS). As a result of this his epileptic seizures have diminished. His non-epileptic seizures have been going on for about three years. They happen every day and multiple times per day. Sometimes the more severe ones occur at night, with loud yells and extreme body jerks. Many times my son can tell when he is going to have a non-epileptic seizures and whether it is going to be a big one. There has been a pattern indicating that stress is a major trigger of his non-epileptic seizures. Some of the characteristics of his most severe forms include punching himself in the face, choking himself, holding his breath, and kicking. All of these symptoms then cause more stress. My son’s non-epileptic seizures affect him every day of his life. They occur at school, at the grocery store, at restaurants and at home. My son’s case is really complicated. He has been diagnosed with epilepsy, sensory processing disorder, anxiety order, non-epileptic seizures, diabetes, and Tourette Syndrome. Sometimes it is difficult understanding what is going on. To support this disorder, he sees a neuropsychologist every three weeks.
The most difficult thing we deal with as it relates to non-epileptic seizures is school. His elementary school did not understand what was going on. They didn’t know how to react, and at times accused him of “faking” the seizures. Now he is in middle school and things seem to be better. Our biggest issue is school absences. With all of the doctor appointments, nights of non-epileptic seizures, and absences due to his epilepsy or diabetes, it adds up to quite a few absences from school. Then also throw in the absences for typical childhood illness, such as the flu. I think schools in general have a difficult time dealing with children with chronic illnesses. Having the illnesses is hard enough without causing more stress dealing with the school on this topic. There have been numerous times where I was forced to take my son to a doctor to get a written note explaining the absence. The doctor could do nothing to help. We went purely for the note. What a wast of time and money.
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