Pseudo-Seizures: The Medical Hazard of Over-Stress


Pseudo-seizures (PNES) are non-epileptic seizures that originate from stress-related psychological ailments. PNES can be characterized by tremors or shaking when under extreme emotional stress, like a tiny seizure. Doctors consider most of them psychological in nature, but not purposely produced – usually the person is not aware that the spells are not “epileptic.” These are particularly hard to diagnose as a brain scan won’t show change during a non-epileptic seizure.

Common causes for PNES are extreme stress or emotional strain for long periods of time. Emotional strain puts stress on the brain and body much like prolonged high blood pressure does.

Unfortunately PNES is often misdiagnosed as normal seizing, but medications won’t work and the added stress of having an unknown medical issue usually makes symptoms worse.


My personal connection to PNES is a friend of mine from middle school, Francesca. Francesca was put under a lot of stress last year, what with health issues, college applications, multiple APs, and being part of a rigorous theatre and musical group – the strain was too much on her mind and body. She developed tremors and experienced these small “seizures”. She stopped being able to do the things she wanted to do, like take challenging classes or go to the movies.

For my catalyst project I helped Francesca with her recovery regimen – which is to maintain her physical and mental health. I did light exercise and yoga with her and we cooked some new meals together that lean to improving her diet.

Although I was helping Francesca relieve her symptoms, I’m more interested in how pseudo-seizures can be prevented in the first place. I interviewed the medical, psychological, and educational professionals in my life to see how stress in daily life can be alleviated.


I talked with three different medical professionals I know to find methods that students can use to reduce stress and avoid bodily trauma:

  • Dr.G – a therapist specializing in anxiety/depression in teens.
  • Dr.C – a pediatric doctor.
  • Ms.F – The resident academic advisor and student counselor at my high school.

The main idea that I gathered from these free is this: It’s easy to reduce stress by taking the time for self-care. Things like getting a solid nine hours of sleep, drinking two liters of water daily, having a good diet, and exercise 2-3 times a week makes all the difference.i

Of course there are additional things that we can do, like taking vitamins (Francesca takes CardioPlus) to help with coronary blood flow and overall health.

When I went into to Dr.F and talked about what schools can do to reduce student stress, her responses were similar: Later start times in the morning, promote healthy eating, and get students active. My school has a “Happiness Club” founded by three seniors, and they have organized after-school spin/yoga classes and casual group therapy,

in addition to lunchtime friendship bracelet parties or cult movies in the cafeteria. Dr.F recommended seniors not take the most challenging classes offered to them, as they are most likely burnt out from college applications and three years of high school.

After a few months of doctor-ordered yoga and a diet plan, Francesca’s PNES is mostly dormant. She’s evidence of how well the mind and body thrives off of the slightest increase in quality of physical and mental health.

PNES Awareness:

There are movements and charities to raise awareness and provide support systems for victims of chronic PNES. Some of the simple information provided by the NEAD Trust website (two images below) helps people like Francesca who live with non-epileptic attacks.



Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES)

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  1. April 27, 2018 by Shealyn.Kennedy

    I really liked how your project was more of a first hand experience. You were able to talk about your experiences of helping Francesca and that really enriched your project. How did this change your mindset on health? It obviously sparked an interest since you focused your project on it, but did it change you in other ways? Do you know of anyone else who experiences PNES? I’ve never heard of PNES and I’m glad that I clicked on your page because I now am more aware of the difficulties that people may have and how this can be mistaken with normal seizures. Good job!

  2. April 27, 2018 by Gisele.Yamamoto

    I really liked your project! PNES is incredibly interesting, and very unfortunate as well. It’s hard living with something that controls your life so strongly. You took a very thoughtful approach to researching this heavy topic and your personal connection to this makes topic so much more interesting. How did researching this topic change your views on mental, physical, and emotional stress? You page was so informative! Thanks and great job!

  3. April 28, 2018 by Kayl aAdams

    I think what I loved the most about your project is the fact that you had actual contact and an actual connection with someone who had PNES and I think that’s what makes your conference page that much more meaningful and impactful. This is a condition that I have never heard about and when it comes to the main cause of it, stress, it worries me to think that so many young adolescents who are under pressures can be affected in this manner. Since nonepileptic seizures can occur yet are harder to diagnose what do you think the medical community should do in order to raise awareness that this is as serious of an issue as epileptic seizures are?

  4. April 29, 2018 by Isabella.Flerlage

    This project shows how passionate you are about helping your friend and I’m sure she really needs that. I think its great that you utilized this project to help her, and it seems like you did great research on PNES. I had no idea about these “mini seizures” but it is scary to see how extreme it can get. Great job!!

  5. May 04, 2018 by Grant.Komin

    Hi Addi,

    I had no idea that pseudo-seizures due to stress even existed. Being someone who usually experiences extreme forms of stress and anxiety, this is concerning to hear, but I am glad that there are steps that can be taken to prevent them from occurring. Great job!

  6. May 05, 2018 by Kelsey.Watkins

    Addi, I think your project is really awesome! I love how you incorporated a lot of information in the form of text as well as with images. I never knew about this topic before and now I feel well educated about it after reading through your project. Awesome job!

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