Continuous electroencephalographic monitoring in critically ill patients has improved detection of nonconvulsive seizures and periodic discharges, but when and how aggressively to treat these electrographic patterns is unclear. A review of the literature was conducted to understand the nature of periodic discharges and the strength of the data on which management recommendations have been based. Periodic discharges are seen from a wide variety of etiologies, and the discharges themselves are electrographically heterogeneous. This spectrum suggests a need to consider these phenomena along a continuum between interictal and ictal, but more important clinically is the need to consider the likelihood of neuronal injury from each type of discharge in a given clinical setting. Recommendations for treatment are given, and a modification to current criteria for the diagnosis of nonconvulsive seizures is suggested.