Do Anxiety & Panic Attacks Cause Seizures
So now we will come down to the truth of the matter. Does anxiety cause seizures? If the patient is suffering from epilepsy, then the answer is YES, anxiety can cause seizures. One of the most common triggers for seizure is acute stress and patients suffering from severe anxiety are also disciples of extreme stress.
However, the important point here to be noted is that panic attacks can cause seizures in a patient who already has epilepsy. It is extremely rare that a person who suffers from anxiety and stress will have their very first bout of seizure as a result of panic attacks and anxiety. Patients who have been diagnosed with epilepsy are often aware of the trigger factors and risks for the seizure.
So, it can be safely said that anxiety can cause seizures only in people who are already suffering from a seizure disorder. It is extremely rare that a person who does not have a pre-existing seizure disorder to have seizures as a result of panic attacks or anxiety.
How Are Dissociative Seizures Diagnosed
If you have seizures, your GP will usually refer you to a specialist for diagnosis. This will usually be a neurologist to see if the seizures are epileptic. Or you may be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist .
It may be easier for doctors to try and rule out possible physical causes first, including epilepsy. This will influence the types of tests you might have.
Dissociative seizures can be difficult to diagnose because they can appear similar to epileptic seizures. There are no symptoms that will definitely identify dissociative seizures from epileptic seizures.
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Jennifer Mizrahi remembers the first phone call from her daughter telling her, Chasin is panicking! He was in a store with his dad and his older brother and sister, and suddenly the 12-year-old felt strange and nervous. Jennifer tried to reassure Chasin over the phone, telling him to take a deep breath and to drink some water. The whole episode lasted less than a minute and then he was fine. No one paid much attention to this incident it was a one-time thing.
Then it happened again a few months later.
This time Jennifer witnessed the whole episode unfold. He got really nervous, and quickly rattled off, Somethings wrong. I feel really strange, I need to take a walk, I need some water, Jennifer says. He looked alert and his eyes were wide open. Fifty seconds later, he felt fine.
The family pediatricians reaction was that all kids have a little angst and he thought it might be related to stress from Chasins parents divorce. He examined Chasin but never ran any tests. The pediatrician said he thought Chasin was experiencing panic attacks and supported the techniques Jennifer had already taught Chasin: breathe deeply, drink some water, and maybe go for a walk. The doctor didnt think it was anything serious or dangerous. In fact, to make light of Chasins symptoms, he suggested they give the attacks a nickname, Fred.
The Roadblocks and the Signs
Chasin & Jennifer Mizrahi
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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.
- Feeling faint.
- Sudden feeling of doom.
Those are “brain symptoms” 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 they’re 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 don’t recover right away, leading many to convince themselves they’ve had a stroke.
Why Seeing The Event Is Important For Diagnosis
Because there are so many seizure-like events that can be confused with actual seizures, diagnosing them accurately can be difficult. Not only are there many seizure-like events, but there are also more than 40 types of epilepsy and many more non-epileptic seizures. Non-epileptic seizures are usually caused by mental stress or physical conditions.
Furthermore, even with normal EEG and ECG tests, it can still be hard to determine exactly what happened during seizure-like events without firsthand knowledge. Knowing what happened during the event is one of the best advantages a doctor can have. Thats why video documentation is such a powerful tool when it comes to diagnosing seizures.
Having a professional who understands seizure causes can help immensely. By being able to see what happens during the events firsthand, doctors can form a much more complete diagnosis than they could with EEG or ECG alone. Watching the specific kinds of movements and behaviours while they happen allows them to dismiss many possibilities while narrowing in on the ones that are more likely.
This is especially helpful when dealing with issues that need to be diagnosed quickly, as doctors will have more information to use right away.
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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.
Alcohol Can Cause Low Mood
Some people drink alcohol because it seems to ease stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, the good mood is only temporary. In the long run, alcohol is a depressant. Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic, and its important to stay hydrated for many reasons, including mood. If you do drink, drink in moderation. If you have a 6-ounce glass of at dinner, its probably fine, Villacorta says. But you dont want to be a heavy drinker, finishing off a few bottles with your meal.
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What Is A Seizure
A seizure is an abnormal or excessive electrical discharge or activity of neurons in the brain which causes the brain cells to misfire, send wrong signals and send them too rapidly. This abnormal brain activity in turn causes physical symptoms that are varied and many, lasting from a few seconds to several minutes. Some symptoms may occur before the actual seizure takes place such as sudden fear or anxiety, dizziness, changes in vision, jerky movement of the limbs, or headaches. The symptoms of an ongoing seizure include loss of consciousness followed by confusion, uncontrollable muscle spasms, frothing at the mouth, clenching of teeth, rapid eye movement, loss of control in the bladder or bowel function, or even changes in mood.
There are many situations or conditions that either directly trigger a seizure or increase the risk of having one. These risk factors include brain injury or infection, brain tumor, stroke, intake of varied substances from alcohol to drugs , as well as stress. Other risk factors may be genes, hormonal imbalance, or medical conditions such as Alzheimers disease, lupus or meningitis. The treatment of seizures may be medicine based as doctors may prescribe antiepileptic drugs which adjust or reduce excessive electrical brain activity. Surgery may also be performed if the cause of the seizure is determined to be caused by or originates in a specific part of the brain.
About Anxiety & Panic Attacks
People suffering from anxiety disorder always have a tendency to think the worst of everything. People suffering from anxiety and panic attacks focus more on the negative. Anxiety disorder is a condition where the patients brain tends to concentrate on the worst case scenarios. So, this means that if the patient is suffering from a panic attack, then that patient is more prone to thinking that the panic attack is caused by something worse, such as seizure.
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Anxiety Symptoms: 8 Surprising Triggers
You might be surprised at some of your daily habits and lifestyle choices that could make you experience temporary symptoms that feel like anxiety.
Skipping meals: Waiting too long to eat or missing out on breakfast may lead to unsteady blood sugar levels, which can cause anxiety-like sensations, including shakiness, dizziness, confusion, and difficulty speaking. Prevent these blood sugar swings by eating frequent small meals and keeping snacks on hand.
Being dehydrated: Dehydration can cause more than just thirst and dry lips. It can also set the heart racing and make you feel light-headed and dizzy, all sensations that are common during anxiety attacks. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stave off any thirsty mood swings.
Consuming caffeine: Many people depend on their morning coffee for a jolt of energy and to kick-start their powers of focus and attention. But since it is a stimulant, caffeine can also kick-start feelings of anxiety. The jitters, shakes, and irregular heart rhythm you might get after a dose of caffeine can feel an awful lot like a panic attack, especially if you are already susceptible. Caffeine is also a diuretic, meaning it makes you urinate more and can lead to dehydration .
The Confusion Between Panic Attacks & Partial Seizures
Panic attacks occur suddenly and can be so overwhelming that the patient feels out of control. In such cases, people tend to look for other causes or refuse to believe that it can be a panic attack. These days, for every little problem, people are searching online about it and thus there are innumerable websites and forums that tell you that what you are suffering from may be different from panic attacks, such as that it could be a partial seizure.
Partial seizures can resemble panic attacks however, this occurs in very rare cases and even if they occur, then it is seen in patients who are already at risk for epilepsy. Similarly, sometimes panic attacks can be so severe to the extent that they look like seizures however, this scenario is also not common.
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What Are The Symptoms
Although dissociative seizures start as an emotional reaction, they cause a physical effect. Features of the seizure can include palpitations , sweating, a dry mouth, and hyperventilation .
Some features of dissociative seizures are very similar to epileptic seizures. These physical features may include loss of awareness, loss of sensation, and loss of control of bodily movement.
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Understanding The Relation Between Anxiety And Seizures
People suffering from panic attacks tend to fall into the trap where they are convinced that their panic attacks is something more serious. If you have not been diagnosed with epilepsy, then you have to accept the reality that what you are suffering from is in fact panic attacks and only panic attacks from acute anxiety and stress.
Whether you are suffering from panic attacks or seizures, it is important to talk to your doctor regarding the diagnosis and the best treatment plan. People suffering from epilepsy are at increased risk for more seizures due to acute stress of impending panic attack or seizure.
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Driving Regulations For Dissociative Seizures
Driving regulations for the UK are set by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency . You will need to stop driving and tell the DVLA that you have dissociative seizures. You may be able to apply for a new licence once you have been seizure free for three months.
If seizures are considered likely to happen while driving, a specialist review would also be needed. These regulations are based on the risks of having a seizure while driving.
Visit gov.uk/driving-medical-conditions for more information.
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What Happens During The Seizure
Asking you about what happens during a seizure can be helpful to find the cause. If you dont remember your seizures, you might like to bring along someone who has seen your seizures.
The specialist might ask you about:
- when your seizures happen
- whether you get any warning before a seizure happens
- what happens to you during the seizure. If you dont remember, a witness could help describe what happens to you
- how long the seizures last
- what you remember, if anything, about the seizure afterwards
- how you feel afterwards and how long it takes you to recover.
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Symptoms That Mimic Epilepsy Linked To Stress Poor Coping Skills
Based on their clinical experience and observations, a team of Johns Hopkins physicians and psychologists say that more than one-third of the patients admitted to The Johns Hopkins Hospitals inpatient epilepsy monitoring unit for treatment of intractable seizures have been discovered to have stress-triggered symptoms rather than a true seizure disorder.
These patients returning war veterans, mothers in child-custody battles and over-extended professionals alike have what doctors are calling psychogenic non-epileptic seizures . Their display of uncontrollable movements, far-off stares or convulsions, Johns Hopkins researchers say, are not the result of the abnormal electrical discharges in the brain that characterize epilepsy, but instead appear to be stress-related behaviors that mimic and are misdiagnosed as the neurological disorder.
One potent clue, the researchers note, is that antiseizure medications fail to stop these patients symptoms, suggesting nothing is physically wrong with their brains electrical activity. The researchers also say the diagnoses appear to be on the rise, at least by what they have seen in recent months.
When the team discovers individuals who, using a computer analogy, dont have a hardware problem but a software glitch, they get the good news. Often, Krauss says, symptoms go away quickly. But, Brandt says, such patients often need cognitive behavior therapy to help them develop more effective coping skills.
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Whats The Difference Between Pnes And Panic Attacks
The symptoms of both events are similar. However, PNES are less likely to include the severe feelings of panic and fear that come with panic attacks.
Panic attacks and PNES are easy to mix up. Even healthcare professionals sometimes mistake one for the other.
In fact, there does appear to be a close relationship between the two. According to a 2018 analysis of studies, 17% to 83% of people with PNES also experience panic attacks.
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What Is A Panic Attack
A panic attack is a sudden surge of intense fear or anxiety that may or may not have a known cause or is disproportionate to a perceived threat. This intense fear comes with a variety of psychological symptoms as well as physical symptoms that are similar to a heart attack or the beginning of a seizure. The physical symptoms include increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, hyperventilation, nausea, chest pain, headache, chills, or the numbness and tingling commonly known as pins and needles. The psychological symptoms include a fear of losing control or of dying, a sense of impending doom, or a sense of being detached from the body called derealization. A panic attack may last anywhere from several seconds to several minutes. Heart attacks, seizures and other physiological causes are often eliminated first before a health professional considers a panic attack.
What Causes Panic Attacks After Drinking Alcohol
A panic attack, after alcohol or otherwise, is an episode of extreme anxiety where emotions are amplified and terrifying. A person may experience shortness of breath or hyperventilate and feel detached from reality. Their mind is overloaded with worrying thoughts and fears, even of things that do not present any clear and immediate danger.
There are several explanations why alcohol is responsible. If you look at the biological side of things, it is well-known that alcohol causes a number of physiological symptoms such as dehydration, low blood sugar, and elevated heart rate. These may make a person feel uneasy, dizzy, and irritable, and may lead to a panic attack. Its not just alcohol that causes this. Too much of some drugs such as, caffeine, or even sugar can prompt a similar response.
Because alcohol affects GABA, an inhibiting neurotransmitter in the brain, it does make a person feel calmer at first. It acts like a depressant and sedative. However, when the alcohol wears off, GABA levels decrease, triggering an anxious, exaggerated and overstimulated state.
Serotonin levels go up and down in a similar fashion. They go up when a person drinks, and crash when they stop. If a person drinks regularly, the natural GABA and serotonin levels can get destabilised, making withdrawal symptoms and anxiety attacks worse.
If blackouts are involved, the extra stress of the unknown, especially if poor judgement was involved, can increase anxiety levels further.
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