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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.

What is non-epileptic attack disorder (NEAD)?

Some people with dissociative disorders also experience physical symptoms such as seizures. These seizures don't seem to have a physical cause. These are called dissociative seizures or non-epileptic attacks. You may be given the diagnosis of non-epileptic attack disorder (NEAD).

Although they don't have a physical cause, this does not mean that they are not real or that you are 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
  • bite your tongue
  • go blank or stare in an unseeing way
  • have other symptoms that look like epilepsy.

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

It is thought that dissociative seizures are caused by the brain dealing with overwhelming stress by 'shutting down'. You can find out more about non-epileptic attacks on:

This information was published in March 2019. We will revise it in 2022.

References and bibliography available on request.

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