Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Learning About Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizure

Main Content

Learning About Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizure

What is psychogenic non-epileptic seizure (PNES)?

Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) don't have a physical cause. They aren't caused by epilepsy. But people with epilepsy also may have PNES. People who have a lot of stress, mental illness, or emotional trauma may be more likely to have PNES.

Even though PNES doesn't have a physical cause, it is a real condition. The seizures can be scary. And not knowing why you're having them can be frustrating.

What happens during PNES?

PNES may look like epileptic seizures. But epileptic seizures usually follow the same pattern every time. With PNES, each episode may be different.

During a PNES episode, you may have jerky movements, tingling skin, or problems with coordination. You may notice changes in your vision or sense of smell.

Some people have episodes often. Others have them only once in a while. For some people, episodes stop over time. Other people keep having them.

How is PNES diagnosed?

Your doctor will do tests to find out if you have epilepsy. An EEG test lets your doctor see the electrical activity of your brain. The test is often used to diagnose epilepsy. It helps your doctor know what types of seizures you are having.

Your doctor also may do blood tests.

PNES can be mistaken for epilepsy at first. As a result, some people with PNES are treated with epilepsy medicines. But most of the time, these medicines don't help. The right diagnosis allows your doctor to give you treatments that will help with the stress and other issues that may be related to PNES.

How is PNES treated?

Treatment varies with each person. The goals of treatment are to relieve stress and to help you learn ways to cope with difficult areas of your life.

Counselling is the main treatment for PNES. Because PNES are not caused by a problem in the brain, medicines that are used to treat epilepsy are not used to treat this condition.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter X895 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizure".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.