Dissociative Events Explained

by Brooke Dulka, Ph.D.: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Dissociative events — sometimes known as “dissociative seizures” — are not epileptic seizures. Rather, they are somatic manifestations (physical reactions) to psychological stress. Other terms used for dissociative events include “psychogenic nonepileptic seizures,” “psychogenic seizures,” or “functional seizures.” Some scientists have previously used the word “pseudoseizures” to describe this type of event, but the use of this term is now discouraged because they are, in fact, a real phenomenon.

Dissociative events are challenging for clinicians to diagnose and treat because, on the surface, they look so similar to epileptic seizures. Understanding dissociative events is vital not only for doctors and specialists but also for the individuals experiencing them.

Who Has Dissociative Events?

Between two and 33 people per 100,000 experience dissociative events. Roughly 75 percent of people with dissociative events are female, according to a 2017 study published in Seizure. These events most frequently start during late adolescence or early adulthood. Another study found that dissociative events were common in females of all ages, while the proportion of males increased with age.

Having preexisting mental health disorders is one of the biggest risk factors for developing dissociative events. Common mental health conditions that can come before psychogenic nonepileptic attacks include:

  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder

Dissociative events are also associated with a history of trauma and sexual abuse. One study found that this was especially true when the trauma occurred during childhood or adolescence. People with epilepsy can experience both epileptic and nonepileptic seizures.

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