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Seizures mistaken for panic attacks

29 January, 2001

Research published this week suggests that some people with epilepsy are having their seizures mis-diagnosed as panic attacks.

Published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry , the report suggests that in some people with epilepsy seizures manifest themselves as an overwhelming fear. Such occurences can be attributed incorrectly as panic attacks.

Researchers at CHU Pontchaillou in Rennes, France have linked the seizures' fear features to particular areas of the brain. They noted that panic disorder, a psychiatric illness, typically starts in the late teens or early years of adulthood, however in 7 of the 8 patients they studied, these events began during childhood.

The report states that while people who experience panic attacks are fully aware of their attacks and remember the events afterwards, half of the people in this study had no recollection of what triggered the episode, with some of those involved have no memory of the event at all. Certain symptoms associated with seizures had also been experienced during these events.

However, despite the differences between the seizures and panic attacks, the report concludes that the two may be difficult to tell apart, in which case, the researchers noted, direct measures of brain activity during an episode may be required.