What patients think about psychogenic nonepileptic seizures in Buenos Aires, Argentina: A qualitative approach

Seizure. 2017 Oct:51:14-21. doi: 10.1016/j.seizure.2017.07.004. Epub 2017 Jul 20.


Purpose: To analyse the methods of reasoning with regard to patients' experiences of living with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Method: A qualitative approach using semi-structured interviews was used to gain an in-depth and contextual understanding of the perspectives of five patients with PNES. Data collection and analysis were followed by an inductive and interpretive approach informed by the principles of thematic analysis.

Results: Explanatory models and prototypes were identified from the patients' narratives. Four patients related their suffering regarding psychosocial causes -family conflicts, sexual harassment, and life changes, among others-. Hereditary and organic hypotheses appeared to be unspecific. Folk explanations were common to all participants (magic, witchcraft, energetic causes). Four patients used the term epilepsy as an illness prototype, focusing on seizures and the use of antiepileptic drugs. Three of them also compared their illness to other people's "attacks" (heart attacks, panic attacks, nervous breakdown). Only one of them referred to someone who was suspected of having epilepsy.

Conclusion: Patients' psychosocial explanatory models are different from the results of previous studies because these studies indicate that most patients support somatic explanations. Patients also use folk explanations related to traditional medicine, which highlights the interpersonal aspects of the disease. Doctor-patient communication is essential for a correct understanding of PNES, resulting in better outcomes. It could also help to reduce the cultural distance between professionals and patients, leading to narrowing inequalities present in multicultural healthcare services.

Keywords: Argentina; Explanatory models; Illness narratives; Prototypes; Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures; Qualitative research.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Argentina
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / complications
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Seizures / psychology*
  • Young Adult