Treatment for Non-Epileptic Seizures

There is a stigma in our society about having psychological problems. Because of this, some patients are reluctant to accept the diagnosis of non-epileptic seizures. However, non-epileptic seizures are a real condition, arising in response to stressful events. You are not alone in your attempts to gain control and lead a normal life. Treatment is available and effective for most patients who seek it.

Medication

Patients with non-epileptic seizures may be given medication as part of their therapy. Seizure drugs can be effective for mood stabilization and control of anxiety, so seizure medications are sometimes continued. For most patients, however, seizure medications are stopped. Antidepressant drugs and other drugs used for psychiatric therapy may be prescribed. For most patients, medication therapy may only be needed for a limited period of time. Attempts will be made to taper patients off medication once the non-epileptic seizures have stopped, and the underlying psychiatric problem appears to have been resolved.

Psychotherapy

Treatment generally involves psychotherapy. A variety of approaches to therapy may be considered depending upon the cause of the patient's non-epileptic seizures. Common approaches include techniques such as supportive psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and stress management tips to help develop more effective coping strategies. Relaxation techniques and biofeedback training are frequently helpful.

Goals of treatment are to educate patients and their families about non-epileptic seizures, in order to:

  • Defuse tension that may arise because of the diagnosis
  • Stress the importance of knowing the nature of their spells
  • Determine the possible underlying cause
  • Help patients distinguish between epileptic and non-epileptic seizures
  • Promote compliance with medical/psychological follow-up
  • Help patients to achieve control over their non-epileptic seizures and return to normal life activities

Children and adolescents

Most of the information above applies to children as well. Outcomes are generally better in children and adolescents, because intervention can be provided before non-epileptic seizures become a way of life. The duration of the illness is shorter and the stresses are often different than in adults. For example, the stress may relate to academic problems, dating, or family dysfunction. However, children and adolescents may also have serious mood disorders and a history of sexual abuse.

Treatment for children and adolescents

Prompt treatment is important so that the patient and family can work together on solving the problem. Initially, therapy may focus on managing the seizures, while trying to investigate the actual triggering events. It is essential, and critical to the success of the child's recovery, for everyone, including family, therapists, medical providers and even school personnel, to have the same treatment plan and work cooperatively together.

The initial objective of treatment is to help both the child and the child's family clearly understand the nature of non-epileptic seizures, learn to manage the seizures safely, and to determine the stresses that may be triggering the seizures. As with adults, psychological approaches include stress management techniques including relaxation therapy, and supportive psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.

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