What can help?
Understanding the condition
The first step is helping you and your family to understand the condition. Receiving the correct diagnosis can be enough for some people’s attacks to stop. Within weeks after the diagnosis, 1 in 6 people experience no further seizures. Three months after receiving an explanation of the diagnosis up to 1 in 3 people report being free of attacks- without any further specialist treatment.
Accepting the diagnosis
You may find it difficult to accept the diagnosis, particularly if you thought you had epilepsy for many years. However, if a definite diagnosis has been made and you are still having attacks, it is important to consider all the treatment options available.
Psychological treatments can work
Ask yourself what you have to lose by trying this type of treatment even if you are uncertain that it will help you? Some studies show that people who do not accept that their attacks may be caused by psychological factors rather than physical factors (such as epilepsy) are less likely to get better in the longer term.
The most important treatment for NEAD involves talking – to friends and family and to specialists in the treatment of the condition. Your neurologist will be able to make a referral for you to see a specialist in talking therapies (such as psychotherapy).
There are also many things that you do to help yourself. Specialist treatment in non-epileptic attacks can often involve long waiting times. See our Self-help section for things you can do to help yourself manage your attacks.
Ben says: “I am quite happy to accept that they might be psychological in nature: in fact, as they have been badly controlled on medication, I was quite pleased with the diagnosis as I thought it would mean finally finding a ‘cure’.”
Stop antiseizure medication
Antiseizure medications (also known as antiepileptic drugs or AEDs) do not control NEAs. They can have unwanted side effects and should not be taken unnecessarily. The side effects of anti-epileptic drugs can make NEA more likely to happen.
Unless you also have epilepsy (or another condition treated with this medication), your anti-epileptic drugs should be reduced over time and stopped. Your neurologist will support you and advise you how to do this.
Tablet treatment for NEAD
Some people experience NEA when they are depressed or when they have anxiety symptoms such as panic attacks. If this is the case, antidepressant drugs may not only help with the depression and anxiety but also with the NEA. Sometimes antidepressant drugs also help for NEA in the absence of additional depression and anxiety.
Antidepressant drugs are not addictive, and it is usually possible to find a form of treatment which does not cause any side effects. However, the best treatment for NEA does not involve taking tablets but getting involved in one of the talking therapies (such as psychotherapy).
Most experts think that psychological treatment works best for NEAD.