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.

    Fast facts

    1. 1
      The 2 most common types of absence seizure are: typical absence and atypical absence
    2. 2
      For most people a single typical absence seizure usually lasts less than 10 seconds
    3. 3
      Atypical absence seizures tend to last longer, for up to 30 seconds
    4. 4
      Absence seizures are more likely to happen when drifting off to sleep or waking up
    5. 5
      For some people absences can happen many times throughout the day

    What happens

    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.

    You might:

    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:

    It’s not helpful to:

    After the seizure

    Do something

    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

    Updated 12 May 2020
    Review 12 May 2023
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