PSYCHOGENIC NON-EPILEPTIC SEIZURES (PNES)
- Do you have seizures that are difficult to control with anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) or other medical treatments?
- Have you been told that your seizures are not “real” or are “psychological”?
- Do you feel gaslighted by your doctors or others about what it is that you are experiencing?
- Are you frustrated, angry, confused and wish that someone could see you and understand that what you are experiencing IS real?
- Do you wonder why God is allowing you to suffer?
Perhaps you have even had an abnormal EEG or VEEG that has documented your seizures, but for whatever reason the doctors are still questioning your symptoms or even calling your seizures something else like “complex migraines” because you happen to have a common co-morbid neurological disorder called migraine too. Alternatively, you may have been told that the study showed no abnormal activity at the time of the “seizure” or there were “no abnormalities” during the EEG.
It is a very scary and painful experience to be controlled by seizures, particularly when you have no memory of the seizures happening, but others have witnessed the seizures or you find some detail that helps you realize that you have had seizures. Many in the medical and mental health professions lack so much understanding about epilepsy and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) that they actually do more harm to their clients who are already suffering. Many of the so-called expert neurologists and other insurance-based mental health professionals will often tell you that your “psychological” seizures are unconscious and involuntary, but that your “prescription” to make the seizures stop is to receive the typical cognitive-behavioral therapy, which only focuses on changing specific thoughts and behaviors that are within your conscious awareness. If you have experienced the typical gaslighting that at least 1 in 4 people who are referred to an epilepsy center for difficult to control seizures do, you may feel like giving up and even question if it’s possible to be free of seizures.
ONE THIRD OF PEOPLE WHO EXPERIENCE EPILEPSY LIVE WITH UNCONTROLLABLE SEIZURES
If you have struggled with difficult to control seizures, you are not alone. The majority of people who experience seizures have to try more than one or two medications before they find the right one or combination of medications that result in no seizures and no side effects. Even though new medications and treatment options are being developed regularly for people with epilepsy, more than 1 in 3 people who experience epilepsy live with uncontrollable seizures. The number of people who have psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) is not known, but PNES may account for as many as 5 to 20 percent of people diagnosed with epilepsy. The good news is that help is available. With the help and support from someone who knows and understands epilepsy and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES), you can choose not to be controlled by your seizures anymore.
PSYCHOTHERAPY FOR EPILEPSY AND PNES CAN HELP YOU RECLAIM YOUR FREEDOM
Whether you have epilepsy or PNES, if you are committed to the therapeutic process and willing to acknowledge the psychological impact of these disorders on your life, there’s a lot of hope that your life can get better. In session, we will first work towards identifying and understanding any unconscious psychological conflicts that may need attention. Psychotherapy techniques can help you to put new language and meaning to things that you were not able to do on your own, but we will work together to help you to do so and to find new, healthier ways of seeing your situation and living so that you are no longer controlled by your seizures.
My approach is carefully designed to promote healing and wellness. I have been able to help a lot of clients overcome unconscious conflicts, some of which result in physical manifestations of their distress. Some clients who have had seizures that started in childhood or after a trauma, stop having seizures after their first session with me simply because I have been able to identify the source of their unconscious anger, but they have continued treatment to experience psychological healing and ultimately stopped taking anti-epileptic drugs.
For my clients who continue to have uncontrolled seizures, my approach is the same. I focus on helping them overcome unconscious conflicts. In some cases, if there are identifiable triggers, we have focused on reducing or managing those as well so that these clients can experience more independence and wellness. With some clients, I have used teaching and reasoning as a therapeutic intervention so that they learn to use their voice to advocate for themselves, so they can be heard, understood, or recognized in a particular relationship, including with their doctor, which often produces change in other areas of their lives. My approach to treatment is unique and specific based on the individualized needs of each and every client.
ALTHOUGH YOU MAY SEE THE BENEFITS OF PSYCHOTHERAPY FOR EPILEPSY AND PNES, YOU MAY STILL HAVE SOME QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS ABOUT THE PROCESS…
My seizures ARE real. I haven’t done anything wrong. I doubt that anything can help me.
This is a valid concern, particularly if you have been told that your seizures are NOT real. It makes it hard for you to trust anyone in the helping profession. I have witnessed many doctors and therapists tell people that their seizures are not real. Although there is a medical term called “malingering” where some people either falsely claim to have an ailment or exaggerate the ailment for attention or some sort of financial gain, this not always done on a conscious level. People who have uncontrollable seizures, whether due to epilepsy or PNES are also often told that their seizures are NOT real and will even be accused of malingering at some point in their diagnosis.
The experience of a psychogenic non-epileptic seizure (PNES) is just as real as a seizure caused by epilepsy or some other medical condition such as diabetes, but there’s a lot that we do not fully understand about the mind-body connection. PNES is a type of conversion disorder where psychological conflicts manifest as physical symptoms. Some conversion disorders can show up on current medical technologies, whereas others cannot. For example, high blood pressure that is caused by stress can show up when measuring blood pressure, but EEG technology does not currently show changes in the brain when someone has a psychogenic non-epileptic seizure.
According to psychotherapy research on the impact on medical conditions as a whole, people tend to be more responsive to their medical treatments after participating in psychotherapy and therefore have better results. As many as half of people who are diagnosed with PNES become symptom-free once their diagnosis has been confirmed without receiving any further treatment. For the remainder, research suggests that another fifty percent show “improvement” in as little as three months of active participation in psychotherapy. While my experience working with clients who have PNES supports this research and some of my clients have become symptom-free after the first session, it may take longer than three months to become symptom-free and experience healing.
Psychotherapy is too expensive. I cannot afford it.
The cost of psychotherapy can look and feel like something that is out of reach. Psychotherapy is an investment in yourself and you are worth it. Unfortunately, many people have been conditioned to believe that they are not worth the investment and that insurance companies should be paying for psychotherapy even at the risk of disclosing every detail of their treatment and, in most cases, requiring a psychiatric diagnosis that can do harm now or later. Many people also do not look at their monthly budget before forming the belief that psychotherapy is too expensive, but once they do, they find that they have more disposable income than what they thought because they spend money regularly on dining out, coffee to-go, shopping for material goods that do not need to be replaced, and recreation.
If the problem wasn’t big enough, then you wouldn’t be reading this and searching for help. If you are currently controlled by your seizures or a psychological conflict, psychotherapy is an investment in you and your future. Many people who have participated in psychotherapy with me have learned how to be in command of their lives as a result of treatment, so that no matter what happens to them, they now know that they can choose how to respond. You can have similar results, if you are willing to make the investment. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
God won’t just stop these seizures. I don’t think spiritual counseling can help me.
Traditional spiritual direction is often provided by priests, nuns, and now many laity who often lack the knowledge and skills that comes from the psychological training that I have, which is necessary to understand the unconscious conflicts that limit so many people’s spiritual growth. Even those who have received one of the gifts of Holy Spirit, for example to provide healing, are unable to be an instrument of healing to people who are “locked-up” so to speak because they cling to their psychological defenses or their illness unconsciously and do not actually want to be healed.
If your seizures do not stop after having received a confirmed diagnosis of PNES, it is likely through deep psychological scrutiny with someone like me who understands the unconscious and uncontrolled seizures that you will be free from the seizures because they will stop as a result of the work that you do in spiritual counseling or you will learn to surrender to God’s will and accept the psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) while you keep the spiritual counsels and do the necessary psychological work.
If your diagnosis for the uncontrolled seizures is unclear or you have not yet accepted PNES as your diagnosis, my approach to spiritual counseling is still focused on helping you to work through any unconscious conflicts and make a trustful surrender to God by following the spiritual counsels that I provide you and doing the necessary psychological work. Learning the meaning of suffering, penance, and love through teaching and reasoning are common therapeutic interventions that make spiritual counseling with me special too.
While every client who requests spiritual counseling from me receives personalized care and attention, forgiveness, prayer, and love are the essence of what Christ taught when He came to save the world and so as a Catholic therapist, I teach it too.