Outcome after diagnosis of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures

Epilepsia. 1995 Nov;36(11):1131-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1157.1995.tb00472.x.


Information regarding outcome in patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) is limited. We attempted to contact 72 consecutive patients with PNES confirmed by video-EEG monitoring: 51 of 72 (71%) were reached a mean of 15 months (range 12-27 months) after diagnosis and agreed to answer a structured telephone questionnaire. The questionnaire assessed the number of PNES in the last 6 months, antiepileptic drug (AED) use, occupational status, global self-rating, and extent of psychotherapeutic treatments. PNES had ceased in 18 of 51 (35%), decreased > 80% in 21 of 51 (41%), and decreased < 80% in 12 of 51 (24%). Thirty-three of 51 (65%) were not taking AEDs. Occupational status improved in 20% and did not change in 75%. Overall, 29 of 51 (57%) rated themselves markedly improved and 15 of 51 (29%) rated themselves unchanged or worse. Persisting PNES were associated with longer duration of PNES before diagnosis (p < 0.02) and presence of additional psychiatric disease (p < 0.01). Persisting PNES were not associated with gender, presence of epileptic seizures, or extent of psychotherapeutic treatments after diagnosis. Placebo saline infusion had been administered in some patients to help precipitate PNES. This did not affect the number of psychotherapy visits or outcome. We conclude that PNES cease or significantly decrease in most patients, but occupational status does not improve as often. Earlier diagnosis may improve outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Electroencephalography
  • Employment
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Occupations
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Placebos
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Seizures / diagnosis*
  • Seizures / drug therapy
  • Seizures / etiology
  • Telephone
  • Videotape Recording


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Placebos