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Are all seizures the same? Myth-busting

This page is about National Epilepsy Week 2013. Find out how you can get involved in 2016.

Myth: All seizures are the same

Fact: There are around 40 different types of seizures

3D image showining different parts of the brain

Epileptic seizures

It is a common misconception that all seizures are the same. However, this is untrue and there are around 40 different types of seizure. A person with epilepsy may have more than one type.

Electrical activity is happening in our brain all the time. A seizure happens when there is a sudden burst of intense electrical activity. This intense electrical activity causes a temporary disruption to the way the brain normally works, meaning that the brain’s messages become mixed up. The result is an epileptic seizure which can happen in any part of the brain. The type of seizure people experience depends on where in the brain the electrical activity takes place.


People tend to think all seizures are the same as they are more familiar with tonic-clonic seizures. When having a tonic-clonic seizure people go stiff, lose consciousness, may fall to the group and jerk or convulse.

There are many types of seizures and as epilepsy is an individualised condition, seizures can affect people in a way very unique to them.

Other types include:

Some types of seizure are not always easy to spot and signs could include:

  • Chewing
  • Smacking your lips
  • Strange body movements
  • Difficulty understanding or speaking or
  • Appearing to daydream

Case study

Nicole Boren was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 14-years-old and is now 35. Many people have misinterpreted her seizures and behaviour when she has a seizure. Nicole told us: “I had complex partial seizures not tonic-clonic ones, which people tend to be more familiar with. “In the past people have thought that I was behaving strangely and that this must be because I was on drugs or drunk. I don’t think people realise how confusing and frightening seizures can be for people with epilepsy. Often I couldn’t remember what had happened and could find myself in a place with no recollection of getting there.”

Challenge the myth Epilepsy Action aims to increase understanding about epilepsy and the different types of seizures. We do this through a range of epilepsy information including our videos. Challenge the myth that all seizures look the same by sharing this film of a man having a seizure with your friends and colleagues.

Read all the myths we've busted during National Epilepsy Week

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