Epilepsy Information


Psychological trauma in patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures: Trauma characteristics and those who develop PTSD.

Authors: Myers L, Perrine K, Lancman M, Fleming M, Lancman M.

Epilepsy Behav. 2013 Jul;28(1):121-6. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2013.03.033. Epub 2013 May 23.

The first objective of this study was to examine and describe the demographic, psychiatric, and trauma characteristics of our sample with PNESs as a whole. Subsequently, a comparison between traumatized and nontraumatized patients with PNESs was performed with regard to descriptive and trauma characteristics and general psychopathology symptoms. Lastly, we analyzed the predictive value in distinguishing patients with "likely" vs. "not likely" PTSD utilizing a model derived from our patients' psychometric test results.


We collected and tallied demographic and psychiatric information and trauma characteristics on 61 patients with PNESs who had confirmed or denied having experienced trauma in their lifetime. We then studied this group with the Trauma Symptom Inventory-2 (TSI-2) and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2RF (MMPI-2RF). Traumatized patients were subsequently classified as "PTSD likely" and "PTSD not likely" based on TSI-2 criteria and compared on demographic, psychiatric, and trauma characteristics and MMPI-2RF scores.

Our study revealed that 45 out of 61 (73.8%) patients reported experiencing at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. Approximately 40% reported physical or sexual abuse followed in percentage size by loss of a significant other, psychological abuse, witnessing the abuse of others, and medical trauma. Traumatized vs. nontraumatized and "PTSD likely" and "PTSD not likely" patients differed significantly on several clinical variables, as well as MMPI-2RF scores. Scores from TSI-2 produced a model that accurately predicted "no PTSD" in 21/26 (80.77%) subjects who denied a history of PTSD and "PTSD" in 5/6 subjects (83.33%) who endorsed a history of PTSD.

This study showed that overall exposure to psychological trauma is much more prevalent in patients with PNESs than in the general population with an inordinately high exposure to sexual and physical abuse as well as a variety of other types of abuse. Psychopathology was identified in the group with PNESs as a whole with discrete distinctions in clinical symptoms and characteristics of the traumatized as well as the "PTSD likely" subgroups. These findings contribute useful information in understanding intragroup differences in what is increasingly appearing to be a heterogeneous psychiatric condition composed of distinguishable subgroups.