Complex Partial Seizure Mimics as Anxiety

When we think of a seizure, we picture a grand mal seizure with the person’s whole body convulsing in “fits.” In fact, there are many different kinds of seizures, some quite subtle and the person may momentarily stare off into space or stutter slightly.

In the normal adult, the cells of the brain communicate through tiny electrical signals at around 8 to 13 cycles per second (cps). These are called alpha waves. When the cells misfire and send signals that are too fast (more than 13 cps, or beta waves) or too slow (4-7 cps, or theta waves) a seizure ensues. This can be a grand mal seizure, when seizure activity spreads to the entire brain. Or it can be a partial seizure without convulsions, a mild seizure limited to a small number of nerve cells and the person may lose consciousness only for a fraction of a second. Afterward, you may feel groggy and be unaware anything happened and the seizure goes unnoticed. Other times, you experience such things as ritualized movements of the arms or legs, repetitive speech patterns, or altered sensations.

Between seizures, bizarre personality changes can take place and you may suddenly appear hyper-religious, antisocial or even psychotic as you begin to hallucinate. Anxiety and panic attacks can emerge out of nowhere. If complex partial seizure (previously called temporal lobe epilepsy) remains undiagnosed, you can easily be misdiagnosed as having an anxiety disorder, depression, hysteria, or schizophrenia. This is not a rare event. One study examining ten patients not responding to treatment and originally diagnosed as “borderline state” or “latent schizophrenia” suffering from “attacks of anxiety” found that all ten were actually suffering from temporal lobe seizure.

Information taken from Anxiety: Hidden Causes.