What should people do when I have an attack?

Many people find it frightening to witness somebody having an attacks. It is important that you tell people who may see you have an attack what they should do. This will help the witness to deal with the situation better and make sure that you receive the best possible care.

The important thing for them to know is that you are not having an epileptic attack. Tell people that they should avoid calling an ambulance unless you have injured yourself.

You could carry a letter with you, which would make ambulance crew aware that you have NEAD and not epilepsy. This may stop them from giving you the wrong treatment.

This is what you should tell people to do:

  • Keep me safe from injury. You may need to guide or move me from an unsafe place, move dangerous objects and protect my head by carefully placing some soft clothing under it.

  • Do not hold me down or try to restrict my movement. This can make the attack worse or cause injury.

  • Do not put anything in my mouth or try to give me medication.

  • Speak to me calmly. I may be able to hear and feel what people are doing when I have an attack, and being spoken to in a calm reassuring manner can help make the attack shorter.

  • My attacks do not cause damage to the brain, even if they go on for several minutes.

  • Do not call an ambulance unless I am injured or the attack goes on for a long time. It is important that the ambulance crew know that my attacks are non-epileptic.

Download this handout (PDF, 17KB) that you can print off to give to somebody who may see you have an attack. It will tell them what they should and should not do in case you have an attack.

Now that you understand a little more about what non-epileptic attacks are, you can read more about the causes of NEAs.

Carl says: I have a friend with NEAD and I have found it very scary at times to witness.