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Nonepileptic paroxysmal disorders in adolescents and adults

Thien T Nguyen, MD, PhD
Peter W Kaplan, MB, FRCP
Section Editor
Timothy A Pedley, MD
Deputy Editor
April F Eichler, MD, MPH


The term epileptic seizure refers to a transient occurrence of signs and/or symptoms due to abnormally excessive neuronal activity of the brain. Epilepsy is a condition characterized by recurrent seizures.

While it is estimated that 0.5 to 1 percent of the population has epilepsy, nearly 25 percent of patients seen in epilepsy clinic and monitoring units do not have epilepsy [1-4]. It is important for clinicians to recognize these transient nonepileptic events that may resemble seizures in order to avoid unnecessary treatment with antiseizure drugs and to institute the correct treatment when appropriate.

The symptoms of epileptic seizures are diverse. As a result, disorders that might be considered in the differential diagnosis will vary depending on the patient's specific clinical presentation. Clearly, not all of these disorders are considered in any one patient.

Nonepileptic paroxysmal events that can be mistaken for epilepsy also differ significantly by age group (table 1). This topic will review those diagnoses in adolescents and young adults. These diagnoses can be classified into six broad categories:


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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 07, 2016.
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