Neuropsychological and psychiatric correlates of intractable pseudoseizures

Seizure. 1992 Mar;1(1):11-3. doi: 10.1016/1059-1311(92)90048-6.


Psychogenic seizures can mimic convulsive epilepsy and with repetitive attacks, iatrogenic complications from aggressive treatment of status epilepticus can occur. We studied neuropsychiatric features of 20 patients in whom psychogenic seizures were intractable and at times continuous. Nineteen of 20 patients seen were female, and all but one were under 40 years of age. All had convulsive attacks resistant to various medications, normal neurological examinations, and negative imaging studies and electroencephalograms (EEGs). Sixteen had previous evidence of epilepsy and the other four had epileptic relatives. Seizures were atypically prolonged, included back arching and pelvic thrusting, and persisted despite intravenous diazepam and therapeutic phenytoin and phenobarbital levels. Seizures terminated spontaneously in five, were stopped by suggestion in four, and persisted until respiratory arrest or elective intubation in 11. Ten patients had conversion disorder, six borderline or mixed personality disorder and four mental retardation. Fifteen had had some precipitating stressor and the remainder had histories of exhibiting attention-seeking behaviour. Nine of 10 patients with conversion disorder had 'conversion V' Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) profiles, while personality disorder patients had elevation of several psychopathological scales. Patients with conversion disorder gradually improved with anticonvulsant discontinuation, while retarded individuals were helped by behaviour modification, situational change or neuroleptics. Personality disorder patients continued to have attacks and eventually discontinued follow-up. Clinical evidence of non-epileptic seizures includes clinical atypicality and long duration, exacerbation by medications and frequent attacks despite normal examination and studies.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / complications
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / etiology
  • Epilepsy / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hysteria / diagnosis
  • Hysteria / therapy
  • Intellectual Disability / complications
  • MMPI
  • Male
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / therapy


  • Antipsychotic Agents