Abigail says: ‘I don't find that stress plays a part in how many fits I have as quite often I'll have one whilst relaxing watching the TV.’
Mark says: “If my brain decides I have done one thing too many, it shuts me down while it sorts things out.”
What causes my attacks?
Non-epileptic attacks (NEAs) are not caused by changes in the brain which can be picked up with a brain scan or by a neurological disease or disorder. It is better to think about them as a mechanism which the brain uses to "shut down" when it is overloaded. During NEAs parts of the brain stop working together properly. NEAs happen for different reasons in different people.
NEAs can be linked to emotions or stress, but the causes are not always obvious. Most NEAs are an unconscious mechanism, which the brain uses to protect itself against overwhelming distress. NEAs can be triggered by a wide range of situations, emotions, physical sensation, thoughts or memories. People are not always aware of these triggers. Often it feels like their attacks are happening “out of the blue”.
Usually, several things have to come together for non-epileptic attack disorder (NEAD) to develop. There are a number of reasons why a person may be particularly vulnerable to developing NEAs . These can include inherited factors and childhood experiences. Often NEAs start when people face difficulties in adulthood. These difficulties could be unexpected life events (such as someone’s death or an accident), health problems or personal dilemmas (like situations in which there does not seem to be a good way forward). Other factors may then cause the attacks to continue.
Below is a diagram, which shows you how these factors could act together. You can click on the blue words in the diagram to read more information about these.
For more information about factors in early life that can increase the risk of developing NEAs, click here.