Psychological Non Epileptic Seizures
Northeast Regional Epilepsy Group

Anxiety and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures


Anxiety is a serious problem for most patients who have psychogenic non epileptic seizures.

Why? Genetics and environment are both likely contributors. Anxious traits can be inherited. In addition, having experienced a painful history (which is common in most persons with PNES) that was not successfully dealt with leaves many with PNES poorly equipped to deal with day to day problems and stress. The stress of daily life acts as a frequent trigger of anxious feelings. To make things worse, when someone feels fear, nervousness and emotional tension their problem solving skills and logical thinking go down. This leaves the person further stuck and unable to find a way out which only deepens the anxiety and can worsen psychogenic non epileptic seizures.
This is why one of the main targets of PNES treatment is anxiety and its outgrowths.

Sometimes, patients with PNES cannot clearly identify the source of their anxiety or even more surprisingly, are not even aware of being nervous.
So, how would someone know if they are anxious and if the anxiety they are feeling might require professional treatment?

Physical signs of fear and anxiety:
Dilated pupils
Dry mouth
Rapid and shallow breathing
Rapid heart rate
Blood pressure may go up
Slowed stomach and intestinal activity
Sweating

Emotional signs of anxiety:
Nervousness
Restlessness and fidgetiness
Irritability
Fatigue
Tense muscles
Poor sleep
Poor concentration
Shakiness, tremors and feeling unstable

If you recognize these signs in yourself, this is something to discuss carefully with your therapist or psychiatrist now or when you start treatment. Keep in mind that your doctor will be checking whether this is due to anxiety or another condition.
There are several medications and psychotherapies that can be used to treat anxiety and working on these symptoms and what keeps them around is a way of actively working on your PNES.

3 Responses to “Anxiety and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures”

  1. Adam says:

    I have been having seizures for the past three years now…the first two were two years apart and after that i started on an antiseizure medication (Keppra) well since being on the Keppra Ive started having seizures every few weeks and with that my anxiety is also getting worse and worse. Ive had every test done you can think of and everything comes back normal???? Im not sure but it seems to me that I may have PNES.
    I live in Chicago, if there are any places to be treated for this condition i would appreciate a recommendation. I really like my neurologists that im currently seeing but i dont think he is going to get me anywhere if he just keeps testing me for regular epilepsy. HELP!

    • Anonymous says:

      It may very well be that you have noneepileptic seizures. My daughter had every test possible and was determined that her seizures were nonepileptic. Keppra was not a good choice for her so she is now under carbatrol. She continues to have this sniffing episodes whenever she’s excited, stress or startled but as soon as she feels she’s going to have them we take her for a walk or dance and 10 minutes later she is fine. Look at your family’s history and see if anyone suffers from anxiety.

  2. Eric L Nelson says:

    Adam,
    Here is a list of referral sites.

    http://www.nonepilepticseizures.com/epilepsy-psychogenic-NES-information-referral-sites.php

    If I can help anyone, please emai me. I have compiled a PNES Resource List.

    Also there will be a PNES one day conference Oct 29, in NJ
    It’s free, offers breakfast, lunch free, and very informative, by specialists. Also gives us with PNES and our caregivers, family and or friend to meet one another.

    elnelson08865@gmail.com

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