Ask Dr. Tim: I have been diagnosed with “Pseudo Seizures”…am I going CRAZY?

Ask Dr. Tim: I have been diagnosed with “Pseudo Seizures”…am I going CRAZY?


I am a 61-year-old female who has recently been diagnosed with something called “pseudo seizures”. When I began having seizures several months ago it was as imagined very scary to both me and my family. My understanding, is that as the names suggests, they are not “really seizures”. They certainly look and feel like the epileptic seizures I witnessed as a child, with the man next door. Am I simply going crazy?



Dear Martha,

It is certainly understandable how scary and uncomfortable the situation must be for you. There continues to be considerable confusion and judgment around this diagnosis. First of all you are not going crazy. Pseudo seizures are also known as Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES). To be clear they are real and you are simply not creating them in your mind or faking in anyway.

It is estimated that 20 to 30% of patients seen at epilepsy centers are diagnosed with PNES. By some accounts the prevalence rate in the general population is 2-33 PER 100,000. This makes PNES about as prevalent as multiple sclerosis.

Trauma is the key factor in the development of PNES. A specific traumatic event, such as physical or sexual abuse, death of a loved one, divorce, chronic pain, or other great loss or sudden change, can trigger PNES. By definition, PNES is a physical manifestation of a psychological disturbance and a type of Somatoform Disorder called a conversion disorder.

Please be assured that treatment from a qualified psychotherapist (working in tandem with your physician), experienced in trauma work can be helpful.

Dr. Tim

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  1. Michael McVahle:

    While I am certain that some of the seizures where eeg’s fail to record identifiable seizure focals are a result of displacement disorder. However it has become a default Dx. For over 15 years I was told my symptoms were a result of displacement disorder. First it was all in my head. I was sent to therapy. After about 5 years the Drs started saying if I was a woman they would say I had Fibromyalgia. After 15 years I was finally diagnosed.
    Medical science is still evolving. It is dangerous to label people as having a psycholological issue simply because a Dr doesn’t lnow what the physical process causing the symptoms are. I am dealing with it for the second time in my life. Gee, your pills didn’t cure me so I must be crazy.