Psychogenic nonepileptic attacks (PNEA), also known as psychogenic nonepileptic seizures, dissociative seizures, or pseudoseizures (a term now widely considered pejorative), can be terrifying and frustrating for patients and their families. PNEA are transient episodes of involuntary movements or altered consciousness caused by psychological mechanisms, often involving intense stress. They are the most common form of functional neurological disorder, the preferred term for what was previously known as conversion disorder. Unlike factitious disorder or malingering, PNEA are not consciously produced or controlled by the patient, ie, they are not “faked.” Individuals with PNEA may thrash and jerk their limbs, fall to the floor, roll back and forth, or simply close their eyes and become unresponsive as if asleep. PNEA can appear very much like epileptic seizures, in which abnormal electrical discharges in the brain cause similar episodes of involuntary movements and altered consciousness.
Tolchin B, Martino S, Hirsch LJ. Treatment of Patients With Psychogenic Nonepileptic Attacks. JAMA. 2019;321(20):1967–1968. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.3520
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