Dissociative seizures

    Not all seizures are caused by electrical activity in the brain. Dissociative seizures look a lot like epileptic seizures, but happen for psychological, rather than physical reasons.

    Different names

    Many different names are used for dissociative seizures. Some commonly used names are:

    These names are also used:

    Whichever name you have come across; they all mean the same thing. We have chosen to say dissociative seizures.



    Fast facts

    1. 1
      It is possible to have both epileptic and dissociative seizures
    2. 2
      Many people, including health professionals find it difficult to tell the difference between an epileptic and a dissociative seizure
    3. 3
      Dissociative seizures happen for psychological reasons. They may be caused by past or present trauma or stress
    4. 4
      Epilepsy medicines will not control dissociative seizures
    5. 5
      Some people are mis-diagnosed with epilepsy and take epilepsy medicine for years before they get correctly diagnosed with dissociative seizures
    6. 6
      To help work out the type of seizures someone is having, video-telemetry is useful. This involves having an EEG at the same time as being videoed
    7. 7
      Psychotherapy can help people with dissociative seizures (psychotherapy is the name for a range of different talking therapies)

    Top tips

    It can be difficult to come to terms with a diagnosis of dissociative seizures, finding out what you can about them might help

    If you can, talk to other people in a similar situation

    Accepting a diagnosis of dissociative seizures is a first step towards getting control of your seizures

    Get the support that you need. You might want help for managing your stress levels or your mental health. NHS and private resources are available

    Stories by you

    If you have dissociative seizures, get in touch to share your story.


    Three young women talk about their dissociative seizures in this short video created by Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.

    Do something

    If you have dissociative seizures, getting help can be a route to recovery. Understanding how stress, anxiety or trauma affect you may help with managing the seizures. What help can you find?



    More info

    There’s more on dissociative seizures on the Epilepsy Action website

    Epilepsy Action

    The Non Epileptic Attack Disorder website provides information and support for those with dissociative seizures

    NEAD website

    The Neurokid website has info for young people and their families living with non-epileptic attack disorder (NEAD)

    Neurokid website

    The NHS website has more info about different talking therapies

    NHS website
    Updated 12 May 2020
    Review 12 May 2023
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