Absence seizures are usually brief and can sometimes be mistaken for daydreaming. It’s common for them to start in childhood. In the past they were called petit-mal seizures.
1The 2 most common types of absence seizure are: typical absence and atypical absence
2For most people a single typical absence seizure usually lasts less than 10 seconds
3Atypical absence seizures tend to last longer, for up to 30 seconds
4Absence seizures are more likely to happen when drifting off to sleep or waking up
5For some people absences can happen many times throughout the day
If you are having an absence seizure you won’t know what’s happening around you and can’t be brought out of it.
During a typical absence seizure you will:
Lose awareness for a few seconds
Suddenly stop whatever you’re doing, but won't fall over
Look like you’re daydreaming or switching off. Which can make it difficult for other people to notice you're having a seizure
Possibly have fluttering eyelids
Possibly have slight jerking of body or limbs
Atypical absence seizures are similar to typical absence seizures. They last longer and start and end more slowly.
- Find your muscles go limp or floppy
- Have clumsy actions
- Be able to move around and respond to other people
- Do brief repeated actions
People who have atypical absence seizures often have learning disabilities or other conditions which affect the brain.
How people can help
If you have absence seizures
It’s helpful for others to:
- Assume you are not aware of what’s happening
- Be calm and reassuring
- Keep you safe
- Stay with you until you have recovered
- Tell you anything you have missed afterwards
It’s not helpful to:
- Restrain you
- Try to bring you round – it’s not possible
- Shout at you or make abrupt movements
- Give you food or drink until you have recovered
After the seizure
- People usually recover immediately from absence seizures
- After a cluster of several seizures you might feel confused
- You might want people to let you know what they saw happening. If so it’s ok to ask
Keeping a seizure diary really helps people to understand their seizures better.
What percentage of your seizures are you recording in a seizure diary?
Go to the Seizures menu