Retrospective analysis of the effects of psychotherapeutic interventions on outcomes of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures

Epilepsia. 1998 May;39(5):470-3. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1157.1998.tb01407.x.


Purpose: Uncertainty exists regarding the effectiveness of psychotherapy in patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES). We retrospectively reviewed the outcomes of therapeutic interventions in a cohort of patients with PNES.

Methods: We identified patients with PNES by outpatient video-EEG (VEEG) between 1992 and 1996. We retrospectively analyzed the effects on outcomes of various types of interventions for PNES administered at random, using a structured interview and review of medical records. Patients with subjective events and severe psychosis were excluded. Patients who required inpatient monitoring because the outpatient VEEG was inconclusive were also excluded.

Results: One hundred patients were diagnosed with PNES between 1992 and 1996: 61 patients completed the study. The average age was 43.3 years, and 90% were female. Nine (15%) had had PNES <1 year, and 7 (11%) had epilepsy. Eleven of 16 patients (68%) who received five or more counseling sessions, including showing the videotaped recording of the nonepileptic spell (13 of 16) by the comprehensive epilepsy program (CEP) psychotherapist had cessation (7 of 16) or reduction (4 of 16) of their episodes. Eleven of 15 patients (73%) who received only the feedback and care of their CEP neurologists had similar favorable outcome. Twelve of 25 patients (48%) who received counseling by a non-CEP psychotherapist or psychiatrist had cessation (10 of 25) or reduction (2 of 25) of episodes. Five patients who received no feedback or intervention had no improvement (4 of 5) or worsening (1 of 5) of the PNES.

Conclusions: Psychotherapy or feedback provided by CEP professionals with experience in epilepsy and PNES improves outcome and may be superior to other or no interventions.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Counseling*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / therapy*
  • Feedback
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Neurology
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Seizures / therapy*
  • Somatoform Disorders / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Videotape Recording