Psychogenic non epileptic seizures: When life throws you a hurricane

These last two weeks have been stressful for anyone who lives in the Northeast (USA). Understandably, the news has been the main topic for all my patients with psychogenic seizures.  And I admit it, even this psychologist was rattled.

Two earthquakes 5 days apart (note that our last earthquake was around 100 years ago), a 500 mile wide hurricane barreling towards New York City, flooding, the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and “credible terror threats.” But like with many crises, we have the most powerful tool: our minds to help us face the challenge and even potentially grow from the experience.  This gave my patients and myself a once in a lifetime chance to work on our therapy goals.  Everything we had been trying out for weeks or months had to be used and this was “not a drill.”

Problem solving is always part of treatment. Our first step was to assess the situation (e.g. listen calmly to the information on the news and answer important questions (e.g. are you in a flood zone)?  Our second step was to take action (e.g. do you need to evacuate, are you stocked up?).  Many noted that the better prepared they got and the more they faced the challenge head on, the stronger they felt.

Once physically safe (as much as possible) we could continue:

Minding your thoughts and feelings and maintaining them at a healthy level that allows you to be alert and ready but not paralyzed is always something we strive for in therapy.  In a situation like this in which even the President and Mayor were making scary predictions that was easier said than done. But it gave us an opportunity to check our thinking process, catch negative thoughts, practice balancing and reinterpreting fears and to use our relaxation techniques in extreme conditions.  And it worked quite well.

So, although these two weeks were scary, some were able to experience the power of the mind even in terrifying situations and discover that the tools of therapy can be effective even in hurricanes.

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