Family functioning in subjects with pseudoseizures and epilepsy

J Nerv Ment Dis. 2001 Jan;189(1):38-43. doi: 10.1097/00005053-200101000-00007.


The purpose of this study was to identify differences in family functioning between subjects with pseudoseizures and their families, and control subjects with epilepsy. Thirty-one adult subjects with pseudoseizures and 31 controls with intractable epilepsy, whose diagnoses were confirmed using video-EEG, were recruited from the epilepsy unit of a tertiary care hospital over a 4-year period. Each study participant and their first-degree adult family members completed two standardized questionnaires designed to measure family functioning: the McMaster Family Assessment Device (FAD) and the Beavers Self-Report Family Inventory (SFI). Individuals with pseudoseizures, when compared with epileptic subjects, exhibited significantly elevated scores in three scales of the FAD and in one scale of the SFI, indicating greater psychopathology within the family, as perceived by the individual. Statistically significant differences with the FAD were on measures of affective involvement (p = .044), communication (p = .004), and general functioning (p = .013). The SFI revealed significantly greater difficulty with conflict (p = .050). No differences were noted between subjects with both pseudoseizures and epilepsy and subjects with pseudoseizures alone. In comparison with the families of the epileptic group, the families of subjects with pseudoseizures displayed statistically significant elevations in their responses on the roles scale (p = .003) of the FAD. The responses of the family members did not differ in regard to the role they assumed within the family unit (i.e., spouse, parent). In summary, individuals with pseudoseizures view their families as being more dysfunctional, particularly in the area of communication, whereas their family members perceived difficulties in defining roles. This suggests that family education and interventions focusing on these areas, may be an important aspect of the treatment of patients with pseudoseizures.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Conversion Disorder / diagnosis
  • Conversion Disorder / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electroencephalography / statistics & numerical data
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy / psychology
  • Family Health*
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality of Life
  • Seizures / diagnosis*
  • Seizures / epidemiology
  • Seizures / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Verbal Behavior