In a recent study at John Hopkins University, it was found that a third of all epilepsy patients were not epileptic. In fact, the elliptic seizures were caused by stress in these cases. In other words, they were psychogenic which means they were caused by emotional stress rather than by any abnormality in brain function.
The study measured 40 healthy adults, 20 epilepsy patients, and 40 psychogenic patients (PNES – Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures) with an IQ score of greater than 70. All of these participants were patients who had been admitted to the hospital and underwent a determination of various factors before they were included into the study. ‘
The goal of the study was to determine differences of stressful events in life and coping with stress among people with PNES, Epilepsy and who were neurological healthy.
It is important to note from the information cited in the published study, that physical and/or sexual abuse are commonly found in the display of PNES. In addition, 92% of PNES patients had a very stressful life event before the epileptic type symptoms appeared.
Often, the epileptic type seizures are a way that patients cope with stressful situations in their life. In many cases, they discount the stress of these events with the seizures, and make the determination that their problems are the result of the seizures.
In the study, researchers found that patients with PNES really did not experience more frequent stress in life than epilepsy or healthy people. However, these patients seemed to create greater distress on their life from these events. Additionally, they had increased levels of denial, mental disengagement, venting of emotions and a reduced positive growth in their life. In PNSE patients, there tends to be a reduction in problem solving as a way to cope with the stress.
PNSE is in the classification and family of health conditions referred to as conversion disorders. In conversion disorders, people convert the stressful and traumatic events of their life into physical symptoms. Generally, there is a build up of seemingly little events until the body can take no more and it begins to shut down. Conversion disorder patients often minimize and trivialize the impact of trauma and stress upon their life.
While cognitive behavior therapy is a major help in someone recovering from conversion disorder or psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, there is trauma release body work that must be done for a person to fully heal. This may not be in the mainstream consciousness of our society, but when you flood the physical body and mind with tremendous stress and trauma, the nervous system has to find a way to discharge or react. As a result, if the person does not have an effective way of dealing with these things in the body, the events of life are internalized into the nervous system as stuck energy. Until this energy is released from the tissues of the body, it will keep looking for an exit. If no exit is given, it will manifest itself into all types of physical reactions that seem to be biological in nature. Often many people who have suffered through these conditions, fail to see that healing is possible. It is too easy to get caught up in the problems of the day, rather than realizing that the body and mind need to heal from the inside out.
- Forbes.com – How Stress Can Lead To Seizures
- Seizure Journal (Published Study) – Stressful life event appraisal and coping in patients with psychogenic seizures and those with epilepsy