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Nonepileptic Seizures


A nonepileptic seizure (NES)

is a short period of symptoms that change how you move, think, or feel. A NES looks like an epileptic seizure, but there are no electrical changes in the brain. A NES is caused by the body's reaction to severe mental stress. Common triggers are depression, hallucinations, mild head injuries, and sexual or physical abuse. A NES is a serious condition. Early diagnosis and treatment are needed to prevent further problems.

Common signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Twitching in your arms or legs that lasts more than 2 minutes
  • Crying, screaming, or weeping
  • Head, neck, and spine bent backwards
  • Side to side head movements
  • Strong or powerful pushing of the hips
  • Thrashing or violent movements, such as striking at walls or breaking pieces of furniture
  • Tongue biting

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have chest pain, tightness, or pressure that may spread to your shoulders, arms, jaw, neck, or back.
  • You are having breathing problems and your lips, fingernails, or face turn blue.
  • You had a seizure that continued for more than 5 minutes.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You feel like fainting or are lightheaded or too dizzy to stand up.
  • You were injured during or after a seizure.
  • You think about hurting or killing yourself or someone else.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You are depressed and feel you cannot cope with your illness.
  • You are confused or cannot think clearly.
  • You have new symptoms that you did not have at your last healthcare provider visit.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for a NES

may include any of the following:

  • Anxiety medicine helps keep you calm and relaxed.
  • Antidepressants help decrease the symptoms of depression.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you learn to face a feared object or situation slowly and carefully. You will also learn to control the mental and physical reactions of fear.
  • Psychotherapy is therapy that includes your family or people who are close to you.

Safety measures after a seizure:

  • Do not drive until your healthcare provider says it is okay.
  • Do not operate heavy equipment or dangerous machines for at least 6 months.
  • Do not swim, scuba dive, or climb for 3 months , or as directed.
  • Help prevent another seizure with healthy habits. Do not drink alcohol. Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and reduce stress. Try to get plenty of sleep.
  • Tell your friends, family members, and coworkers that you have had a seizure. Give them written instructions to follow if you have another seizure.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Your healthcare provider may refer you to a therapist or psychologist. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.