How Anxiety Triggers Seizures
Epilepsy is caused by rapid and chaotic discharge of electrical signals in the brain, but people experiencing psychogenic nonepileptic seizures dont show this pattern. People with depression, anxiety, and similar mental health concerns can experience PNES, but doctors arent sure why. Strangely, a large percentage of people with PNES have epilepsy, making it even more challenging to distinguish psychologically induced seizures from those brought on by epilepsy.
How Might Seizures Cause Anxiety
Its natural to experience feelings of anxiety in the wake of a seizure or if a doctor has just given you an epilepsy diagnosis.
As with many chronic conditions and traumatic events, seizures can be unsettling, and some people find them scary. Seizure symptoms that may worry some people include:
- heart palpitations
- loss of motor control
Knowing a seizure could occur without warning might lead you to feel anxious in social or public settings. This element of surprise may take a serious toll on your mental well-being.
Unfortunately, the stigma of epilepsy and seizures is also very real and may contribute to your anxiety.
have found that the brain regions and mechanisms involved in seizures overlap with those critical to anxiety.
Anxiety And Seizures: Heres What You Need To Know
It is very common for people with epilepsy to experience anxiety. Find out about anxiety and seizures, diagnosis and ideas for coping.
Anxiety is a perfectly normal response to a stressful situation, and it often goes away when the problem has passed. People can sometimes feel excessively anxious – even when there is no obvious danger. This is known as an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in the USA – almost 20% of Americans experience anxiety problems each year. Anxiety is particularly common for people with epilepsy – four people in 10 with epilepsy have an anxiety disorder.
Here is everything you need to know about anxiety and seizures.
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Keep A Normal Routine If Possible
For some people, NES may disrupt their daily life or they may want to avoid acitivities in case they have a seizure. However, studies show that it can help to keep as normal a routine as possible, and to try to take part in activities with other people. This may help to avoid becoming isolated and anxious, which may make seizures more likely.
Treatment for NES may work best when someone is active in life, including working, studying, or taking part in other activities which are meaningful and satisfying.
If you are working, your employer has a responsibility to keep you and other employees safe at work. To do this, they may need to know about any medical conditions that affect you at work, including NES.
Your employer may need to do a ‘risk assessment’ to see if your condition may affect safety at work.
See our information on employment.
Can Panic Attacks Cause Seizures
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Can Epilepsy Be Mistaken For Anxiety
The symptoms of anxiety particularly panic attacks can look and feel a lot like the symptoms of some types of epileptic seizure. This means that both conditions can be misdiagnosed. Some people with epilepsy are told they are having panic attacks, when they are actually experiencing seizures. And some people with panic attacks are wrongly diagnosed with epilepsy.
Occasionally breathing too fast during a panic attack can trigger an epileptic seizure, which can also complicate a diagnosis.
Its important to get the right diagnosis to make sure you get the right treatment and tests. It can be difficult for doctors to tell the difference between seizures and panic attacks. Thats why its important to seek the advice of an epilepsy specialist. The diagnosis is made mainly on a description of what happens, rather than the results of tests, such as an MRI or EEG. However, EEG and MRI tests may still be helpful.
If you believe your symptoms have been misdiagnosed, you could ask your GP to refer you to an epilepsy specialist for a second opinion. You dont have an automatic right to a second opinion, but you do have the right to ask. See Epilepsy Actions information about getting the right treatment and care for your epilepsy.
How Is Pnes Diagnosed
Diagnosis of Pseudoseizure can be difficult, especially since the doctor cant witness the seizure, and symptoms described often match the symptoms of epileptic seizures. Therefore, most patients with PNES end up being diagnosed with epilepsy and are only considered to have pseudoseizure if they dont respond to epilepsy drugs.
Nonetheless, patients with seizures who dont respond to epilepsy treatment require special care and video EEG monitoring. EEG records are used to monitor the patients brain activity. Mental health specialists can use this information to make an accurate diagnosis of the condition.
If the EEG doesnt show the abnormal firing of the brains neurons, the patient is diagnosed with PNES and not epilepsy. Brain CT scan and MRI may also be requested. Accurate diagnosis and treatment of PNES require the collaboration of psychiatrists, neurologists, and psychologists.
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How Is Pnes Treated
Unlike neurological seizures, PNES is psychological. Therefore, treatment of any underlying condition is important. Treatment options include:
- Psychotherapy CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a good option for any anxiety-related disorders. CBT enables affected individuals to learn how to cope with anxious or stressful thoughts and feelings. This can reduce the frequency of PNES.
- Medications Antiepileptic drugs cannot help in treating pseudoseizures since the seizures are not neurological. Therefore, Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors are preferred to reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
- Lifestyle Changes Various lifestyle changes can minimize exposure to stressful situations and reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Good sleep, daily exercise, a balanced diet, and mindful meditation can reduce anxiety and improve the quality of life.
Nes That Have A Psychological Cause
In addition to dissociative seizures, there are other types of seizures that have a psychological cause:.
- Panic attacks can happen in frightening situations, when remembering previous frightening experiences or in a situation that the person expects to be frightening. Panic attacks can cause sweating, palpitations , trembling and difficulty breathing. The person may also lose consciousness and shake.
- Factitious seizures means that the person has some level of conscious control over them. An example of this is when seizures form part of Münchausens Syndrome, a rare psychiatric condition where a person is driven by a need to have medical investigations and treatments.
Whatever type of seizures you are having you might like to talk to someone about your diagnosis and how you feel about it.
Call our confidential helpline if you want to talk.
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So What Is The Treatment For A Person Suffering From Seizures As Well As Panic Attacks
The sensible thing to do here when you are an epileptic is treating both your anxiety/panic attacks and epilepsy together. The right medications for epilepsy helps in stopping and controlling your seizures, however, you also need to make sure that youre not letting anxiety over seizures control your life especially since that stress, panic attacks and anxiety are common triggers for a seizure.
It is imperative that patients suffering from anxiety and panic attacks seek treatment, whatever the cause might be. The patient should try various from of therapies, such as exercise, mediations, journaling, positive thinking and should diligently follow other treatments recommended by the doctor to get rid of anxiety and panic attacks for forever.
So Can Seizures Cause Panic Attacks Or Do Panic Attacks Lead To Seizures
Many people suffering from anxiety and panic attacks fear that it may lead to seizure. And patients who are already suffering from a seizure disorder fear that the anxiety or the panic attacks will make their seizures worse. While there are many patients who worry that their epilepsy can also cause panic attacks.
In this article, we aim to find out the truth behind it.
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Ial Seizures Presenting As Panic Attacks
Contributors: SAT researched and wrote the article. JSD is the consultant to whom the patients were referred and who identified this topic for publication. SMS reported on the electroencephalography and video electroencephography telemetry.
The diagnosis of partial epileptic seizures is often challenging. The problem is considerable the lifetime prevalence of epilepsy is 3-4%, and 60% of those affected have simple or complex partial seizures.1,2 Panic disorder has a lifetime prevalence of about 1.5% and is characterised by discrete episodes of unexpected, sudden, overwhelming terror accompanied by a variety of physical, cognitive, and behavioural symptoms.3
Panic disorder and some partial seizures may have similar symptoms. Patients with epilepsy may have prodromal symptoms of tension, anxiety, and depression. Temporal lobe seizures commonly include affective symptoms, fear, and autonomic features, including changes in skin colour, blood pressure, and heart rate.4 In comparison, for panic attack to be diagnosed patients must have at least four of 13 symptoms, including physical symptoms and affective symptoms, including fear of losing control, fear of dying, and derealisation or depersonalisation.3,5 There is, therefore, considerable overlap of symptoms between the two disorders, and a definitive diagnosis may be difficult. We describe three patients with partial seizures that were suggestive of panic disorder.
Panic Attacks That Are Actually Seizures
Wow, to say I’ve been on a journey is an understatement. I’ve suffered from what I thought was panic/anxiety attacks for coming on 7 years. I’m 27 years old and this has without a doubt partially taken over my life from the sheer fear of it all. Problem I have is I don’t really remember what happens during them only that I swallow a lot, cant recall the finer details , It can feel like de javu I’m petrified from them and I freeze and cant talk properly. I cant seem to get any normal words out.. such as “Hang on I’m having a funny turn!” but I cant and if I do manage to talk it makes absolutely no sense.
Now for years I’ve gone to doctors who hand me print outs of GAD or panic attack sheets, they’ve tried to put me on anti-depressants. Which i’ve refused as I’m not depressed just bloody confused. Often doctors sat there with a blank expression thinking I was tapped… which as many of you will know that makes you feel so much worse. Being honest I can feel pretty shook up after an attack so I’m probably quite anxious from it all.
After this I went through and sat down waiting for his verdict… by how he acted with me I was totally expecting him to say I was just having anxiety/panic attacks. he didnt. “You’re experiencing complex partial seizures’ – my reaction was “Pardon?!”
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Offer Comfort To Your Dog During A Panic Attack
If your dog is having a panic attack and he comes to you for attention, you can pet, hug, or hold him if that helps ease the signs of his panic.
Depending on how intense the episode is, you can try to:
Distract and redirect your dog to play with toys
Take your dog for a walk
Practice basic dog obedience cues or tricks for high value-treats
Other dogs may enjoy being pet, brushed, or massaged by their owners.
You should also provide a place for your dog to hide. Play calming classical music and make sure the space is free of external stimulants . You can also use dog pheromone sprays or plug-in diffusers to help reduce anxiety in that location.
What Are Psychogenic Non
Most people dont understand what is a pseudoseizure? Well, psychogenic non-epileptic seizures or pseudoseizures are different from neurological seizures caused by abnormal brain activity. Often abbreviated as PNES, these are brain responses to stress or anxiety in extreme levels to be considered psychiatric. PNES is classified among functional neurological disorders or conversion disorders.
Typically, these disorders occur due to emotional stressors that cause physical signs that cant be justified with other underlying conditions. PNES usually affects those who struggle to manage anxiety, stress, and traumatic emotions using traditionally accepted coping mechanisms. Once the emotions become overwhelming enough, it shuts down the bodys defense mechanism.
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Habit Of Pushing Back Unwanted Memories
Many people respond to traumatic or distressing memories by burying them or pushing them away.
If your worries overwhelm and exhaust you to the point where you begin to have trouble functioning, you might try to block or suppress them in order to cope.
You might not forget a specific event entirely, but refusing to think about it can blur the details and help it fade from the forefront of your memory.
Suppression might seem beneficial, but it doesnt help you address the source of the problem. Unaddressed anxiety can get worse and have an even greater effect on memory and concentration over time.
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Panic Symptoms In Transient Loss Of Consciousness: Frequency And Diagnostic Value In Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures Epilepsy And Syncope
Patients with epilepsy, PNES or syncope can report ictal panic.
Ictal panic is more common in patients with PNES than epilepsy or syncope.
Ictal panic symptoms are infrequent in most patients with PNES.
Ictal panic can help to differentiate between PNES and epilepsy or syncope.
Self-report questionnaires may have implications for diagnosis and treatment.
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Anxiety Can Cause Seizures In Those With Epilepsy
If you have already been diagnosed with epilepsy then yes, anxiety can cause seizures. Severe stress is a very common seizure trigger, and those with severe anxiety often experience severe stress.
However, it should be noted that this is far more common with those who already have epilepsy. It is very rare for someone to have their first seizure as a result of anxiety. Those who already have epilepsy are usually aware of the risks.
Similarly, the age groups are very different. Most people have their first panic attacks in their early to mid-twenties . They may also have panic attacks as a response to pregnancy or stress.
Epileptics tend to have their first seizures while very young â usually as infants, or as the result of head trauma, or as they reach retirement age. Developing epilepsy between the ages of adolescence and adulthood is exceedingly rare.
So while anxiety can cause seizures, it is very rare for anxiety to cause seizures in those that do not already know they have a seizure disorder.
Anxiety Is Not Always Mental
The most important thing to understand is that anxiety is not just a problem with the way you think. It also affects the way you feel. It can cause chain reactions that lead to symptoms so pronounced they feel like you are suffering from a stroke.
The key thing to understand is that the symptoms can be so similar that you should still strongly consider seeing a doctor. Only a doctor can provide you with a diagnosis, and when it comes to your health there is nothing you should leave to chance.
But the symptoms of anxiety are very real, and many of them resemble a stroke-like experience, for example:
- Difficulty thinking or formulating thoughts.
- Feeling like limbs or muscles cannot move.
- Blurry vision or dizziness.
- Sudden feeling of doom.
Those are âbrain symptomsâ that could occur in a stroke. There are also heart symptoms that may cause someone to feel like they are having a heart attack. Heart attacks and strokes are very different, but moments of pure fear it may feel like theyâre one in the same.
These symptoms are very scary, especially for those that have never had an anxiety attack before. In some cases for a while after the problem occurs it may feel like the symptoms donât recover right away, leading many to convince themselves theyâve had a stroke.
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What Causes Dissociative Seizures
We all react to frightening or stressful situations differently. When we are frightened we might feel physical symptoms such as a racing heartbeat or a sweaty feeling. When we feel sad, we might cry. So how we feel emotionally can sometimes cause a physical reaction.
An extremely frightening or upsetting experience may be so emotionally difficult for some people to think about that they cannot consciously cope with how this makes them feel.
In some cases, we will unconsciously hide or ‘repress’ the memory of these experiences. These memories may always remain hidden and we may never remember the events that have happened.
For some people, the memories of these painful past events can suddenly come up or ‘intrude’ into their thoughts or awareness. This might happen during an emotional or stressful situation or when there is something in the environment that unconsciously triggers a distressing memory.
Dissociative seizures can happen as a cut-off mechanism to prevent bad memories being relived. The person splits off from their feelings about the experience because it is too difficult to cope with. The seizure happens because their emotional reaction causes a physical effect.
These seizures are an unconscious reaction so they are not deliberate and the person has no control over them.
- major accidents
- severe emotional upset
- psychological stress
- difficult relationships
- physical or sexual abuse