How important is it to make the diagnosis quickly?

FAQs about psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES)

How important is it to make the diagnosis early?

It cannot be stressed enough that the sooner the diagnosis is made, the better. Many patients with PNES have been previously misdiagnosed with epilepsy before they are finally correctly diagnosed with PNES.

A misdiagnosis of epilepsy can expose the patient to:
* Dangerous interventions in the emergency room, such as being "loaded up" with powerful drugs and intubation;
* Spending years being treated with medications (anti-epileptic drugs) that are not for the patient's actual diagnosis;
* Making life choices that are based on a wrong diagnosis;
* Avoiding independence-promoting behaviors based on the wrong diagnosis (i.e., not driving, not going out alone).

A correct diagnosis of PNES will allow the patient to:
* Start the right kind of treatment as soon as possible. Treatment for PNES will seek and target the underlying causes that are keeping the condition active;
* Determine if psychiatric medications are necessary for other commonly occurring conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety);
* Allow the psychotherapist and the epilepsy doctor to decide when and if anti-epileptic-drugs can be tapered off; it is best if patients can be completely off any anti-epileptic drugs, as such drugs do not treat PNES;
* Start making changes in life based on this new diagnosis (i.e., gradually become more independent and make important life decisions);
* Move in a multitude of healthy directions including starting a physical exercise, nutrition, and self-care routine.

Even with the technology available to medical doctors, the average delay between the time symptoms begin and the person is correctly diagnosed with PNES has been about 7 years in the past.