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PNES – Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures

PNES – Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures

PNES – Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures

These are seizure-like episodes that are not due to excessive electrical activity in the brain, as typically seen in seizures.  Current research has not been able to shed light on what causes these disruptive episodes.  There is no identifiable pathogen, virus, lesion, or other injury that leads to these symptoms. The brain is communicating with the body, but the message is being altered and not easily understandable.

What we DO know, is that there are certain risk factors that can make people more susceptible to developing PNES. These risk factors include adverse and unwanted events. While these factors may not apply to everyone many people with PNES can identify experiencing some of these factors. We know that PNES attacks usually arise when a person is under some form of chronic or acute stress, and frequently patients experience a heightened state of tension or stress prior to an episode, followed by prolonged sleep post episode. Most patients report that the episodes occur out of the blue. 

By the time patients with PNES come to Health Psychology Sacramento they have been evaluated for seizure disorders by a neurologist and have been medically cleared.  Medication treatment frequently has been marginally or not at all effective.  Health Psychology Sacramento understands PNES to arise in the interphase of Body and Mind communication: the unconscious mind sends a message to the brain reporting severe intrusion or overload and the brain responds with a severe communication back to the body, of not being able to cope with whatever the mind is experiencing.  The PNES episode feels out of the blue because the seizure like episode is neither conscious nor intentional.  Patients feel helpless and increasingly feel they no longer can trust their body or their mind. It is as if the brain sends a serious signal to the body to bring the severity of certain unwanted experiences to consciousness. This is a serious situation.

Health Psychology Sacramento conducts a thorough initial assessment.  This includes a history of adverse events that may have occurred during childhood or in adulthood that could include possible abuse, neglect, bullying, or other forms of trauma. Adverse and unwanted events like the loss of a loved one, workplace difficulty, relationship difficulty, or a recent health-related event that has caused impairment in a person’s life and the patient’s expectation that these events should not impact him/her.  This situation can cause enormous tension. 

Your Body Keeps The Score, Whether You Like It Or Not.

The Good News is: PNES is treatable.  Health Psychology Sacramento offers an Intensive Outpatient Program that allows patients to process and work through underlying conditions and risk factors that may have fueled the PNES episodes.  Each patient will work with their team of clinicians with the goal of restoring balance to the communication between mind and body and create a self-care program that will be able to sustain this balance.  Frequently, patients are able to experience a significant reduction in PNES episodes or freedom from the episodes within 1-6 months of treatment.