Conceptualization and Treatment of Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures Academic Article uri icon


  • Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) frequently present co-morbidly with a range of somatic and psychiatric conditions. This review discusses the relationship between PNES, a number of co-morbid psychiatric symptoms, early attachment trauma, and disruption of neurological development. We suggest that it may be clinically useful to understand PNES with reference to three patterns of co-morbidity and trauma history. In the first group, PNES are one symptom of a response to severe, chronic trauma and invalidation in attachment relationships, or a response to a recent event that overwhelms an emotion regulation system shaped by attachment trauma. For a second group, PNES occur in the context of ongoing interruptions to self and memory with or without a history of attachment trauma. For a third group, PNES occur in the absence of extensive co-morbidity and apparent trauma, primarily as a panic reaction, in a population with under-developed emotion regulation skills. Treatment approaches consistent with these conceptualizations are suggested.

publication date

  • April 18, 2008