Atonic seizures

Atonic seizures can be generalised onset, meaning they affect both sides of the brain from the start.

Or they can be focal onset, meaning they start in just one side of the brain. Atonic seizures are sometimes called drop attacks.

What happens during an atonic seizure?

If you have atonic seizures, usually all your muscles go limp and you drop to the floor. This can result in injuries to your head or face. Sometimes you might not completely fall, but your head may drop forward or you might sag at the knees.


How long do atonic seizures last?

Atonic seizures are very short, usually lasting less than two seconds.


What happens after an atonic seizure?

Your muscle tone returns as soon as the seizure is over. If you’ve fallen, you can get up again straight away.


How can someone help me during an atonic seizure?

Our short online first aid course shows you what atonic seizures can look like, and how to help when someone has one. Visit atonic seizure first aid.

Download a seizure diary

Seizure diary

A seizure diary is a good way of recording information about your epilepsy.

A man being put into the recovery position

Atonic seizure first aid

Watch this short video about how to recognise an atonic seizure.

Read more
This information has been produced under the terms of the PIF TICK. The PIF TICK is the UK-wide Quality Mark for Health Information. Please contact if you would like a reference list for this information.
Published: June 2022
Last modified: December 2023
To be reviewed: August 2025
Tracking: A004.06 (previously B037)
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