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Dissociation and dissociative disorders

Explains what dissociation and dissociative disorders are, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

Non-epileptic attack disorder (NEAD)

Some people with dissociative disorders experience seizures. These seizures don't seem to have a physical cause. They're called dissociative seizures or non-epileptic attacks. If you experience these seizures, you may be diagnosed with non-epileptic attack disorder (NEAD).

Although these seizures don't have a physical cause, this doesn't mean that they're not real or that you're acting.

If you have a dissociative seizure you may:

  • Have convulsions of the arms, legs, head or body (on one side or affecting the whole body)
  • Lose control of your bladder or bowels
  • Bite your tongue
  • Go blank or stare in an unseeing way
  • Have other symptoms that look like epilepsy

Dissociative seizures may be caused by the brain dealing with overwhelming stress by 'shutting down'. You can find out more about non-epileptic attacks on the Epilepsy Action website. 

My own non-epileptic seizures are similar to a tonic epileptic seizure - going stiff and rigid, gasping. This is combined with visual disturbances.

This information was published in January 2023. We will revise it in 2026. 

References and bibliography available on request.

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