Non-Epileptic Seizure Symptoms


Non-epileptic seizures closely resemble epileptic seizures; however, they are not caused by electrical changes in the brain. A non-epileptic seizure is sometimes caused by physiological conditions that affect the flow of sugar, blood, and oxygen to the brain. Severe mental trauma can also prompt a non-epileptic seizure. Some people will only experience one episode in their life, but it is a serious condition---which is why it is important to recognize the following non-epileptic seizure symptoms.

Gradual Escalation

  • While epileptic seizures can abruptly begin with powerful symptoms, there is sometimes a gradual escalation with non-epileptic seizures. If the seizure is characterized by jerking arms and legs, for instance, this jerking movement may not be extreme at first. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, a seizure that slowly builds in intensity is likely a non-epileptic seizure.


  • Non-epileptic seizures are sometimes triggered by extreme mental trauma, which can lead to a number of unpredictable outbursts. Epileptic seizures are not characterized by verbal outbursts. However, a non-epileptic seizure that is brought on by psychological stress may induce shrieking or crying during the middle or end of the episode.

Jerking Movements

  • Jerking arms and legs is a common symptom of many types of seizures. However, there are more specific jerking movements that suggest the seizure is non-epileptic. Movements that start slowly and gradually accelerate are indicative of a non-epileptic episode. Other signs include bending the head, neck and spine backwards. A thrusting pelvis is also a common sign of a non-epileptic seizure. Those who are experiencing a psychologically induced seizure may thrash around and strike objects. According to the Physicians' Desktop Reference, furniture is sometimes broken during such a fit.

Tongue Biting

  • Those who suffer non-epileptic seizures may be in danger of biting their tongues. A study from the University of Miami's Department of Neurology compared the various facial movements of epileptic and non-epileptic seizures. This study found that people who bit the sides or tip of the tongue during a seizure were likely suffering from a psychologically induced, non-epileptic seizure.

Quick Recovery

  • While epileptic seizures can sometimes take hours to recover from, non-epileptic seizures have a brief recovery period. Epileptic seizures are often followed by a headache, confusion, and exhaustion. An absence of these symptoms may suggest that the seizure was non-epileptic.


  • Photo Credit Photo by S-A-M, Creative Commons Generic Attribution 2.5 License
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