Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Living in Fear of the Seizure

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Living in Fear of the Seizure

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jane Picken

For years, people suffering non-epileptic attack disorder have been wrongly diagnosed with epilepsy. As Jane Picken discovers, the two can be difficult to tell apart

Lively Dorothy Churchill would love to be able to take her grandchildren out to the park or lend a hand babysitting when her children want a break.

But, because of the daily non-epileptic attacks (NEAs) the 47-year-old suffers, life is not so straightforward.

At any time or in any place she can be struck down with an attack, which leaves her unable to move in a rigid zombie-like trance.

Sadly, doctors assumed for years that Dorothy, from Fenham, Newcastle, was epileptic.

But NEAs can be just as debilitating as epilepsy, especially for Dorothy, who at one time had 10 attacks a day. Medics believe the condition is caused by emotional stress rather than being the result of a neurological defect, as in epilepsy.

She now has at least one a day and relies heavily on family members to be with her as often as possible in case she hurts herself. This means everyday tasks such as a trip to the shops are off-limits to her.

"The seizures are terrible and I can't remember anything about them," says the grandmother-of-four and mother to Ronnie, 27, Paul, 25, and daughter Emma, 21. "I've got to have a family member around me as soon as possible. I can't have a bath in case I have a fit and drown, and I can't iron or use a knife in case I hurt myself. It almost feels like I'm a 47-year-old who needs a babysitter and is housebound.

"I found out they were NEAs about three weeks ago. They're horrible. I just black out then afterwards I get a thumping headache. My family tell me they try to get me out of them by pinching me, but I don't move at all."

Douglas Turkington, consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer, based at the Royal Victoria Infirmary's mental health unit, says: "The difficulty is NEAs and epilepsy can look very similar".

"One of the differences are their causes. NEAs are more often caused by emotional or psychological stress, but epilepsy can come from a physical cause in the brain, such as not getting enough sleep. …

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