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Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) are episodes of change in behavior that resemble epileptic seizures but are not caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. The underlying cause is psychological in nature. PNES may be diagnosed by video EEG monitoring but sometimes can be diagnosed based on a description of the event and a psychological evaluation.
While PNES episodes are sometimes called “pseudo-seizures,” experts discourage using this term, as it may imply something that is “false” or “fraudulent.” This is an important distinction because although the episodes are not neurological in nature, they are genuine medical events that require specialized attention.
Treatment of the episodes requires family education, individual psychotherapy, family therapy, and in some instances, medications to treat underlying mental health problems. Since PNES are not caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, treatment for PNES does not include anti-epilepsy medication. The first step in treatment is understanding the diagnosis.
In the PNES Clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, patients are evaluated by a pediatric neurology nurse practitioner and by a pediatric psychologist who have special expertise with PNES. The diagnosis is confirmed and education is provided regarding the diagnosis, how to respond to the events and best forms of treatment. The team assists with school reintegration planning and referrals to community-based interventions for ongoing treatment. When necessary, a pediatric epileptologist is available for consultation.
The Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizure Clinic accepts referrals from primary care physicians and pediatric specialists from across the U.S. and internationally.