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Epilepsy Mistaken For Psychological Issues/Panic Attacks/Anxiety?


I hope the community here can help me fill in the gaps where doctors don't have time to address everything. Anyone who can offer insight would be greatly appreciated.

I started having very frequent episodes that are quite characteristic of complex partial seizures in October of 2013. I had no idea at the time and honestly thought I may be having mini strokes because of the episodic speech difficulties I had, and that I would have numbness, tingling, and paralyzed limbs on one side of my body. I knew very little about epilepsy and to be completely open, I only had knowledge of grande mal and petit mal seizures. I had no clue there were other types. Seizures never came to mind until I started having convulsions. After my doctor told me I needed to see a neurologist and I found out about partial seizures, this prompted me to start learning about the different types of seizures and epilepsy in general, which started to make me question some issues I had in the past, and whether or not these were really NEW problems at all.

When I was about 13 or 14 (right around puberty) I started seeing a doctor for some bothersome issues. This would have been around 12-13 years ago or about 2001. I remember having what I called "dizzy spells" quite frequently, and even "fainted" sometimes. By that I mean during a dizzy spell I might black out and fall, then come to later not really knowing what had happened. The second problem I had was a chest pain which was sharp and shooting, but only lasted a few seconds and happened completely randomly (read: not when I was emotionally upset, and not when physically exerting myself). The doctor I was seeing at the time first sent me to be tested for problems involving blood sugar, but that was all normal. Then she had me tested for heart problems and sent me to a cardiologist who scoffed at having me in his office because there was apparently nothing wrong with my heart. After that, she decided I these issues were caused by a psychological problem and put me on Zoloft, which of course didn't help matters. Because I couldn't get help from the doctor, I just learned to live with these things, as they were usually manageable and I just had to excuse myself sometimes by telling people I got dizzy spells and didn't know why. "It's just something that happens".

When I got in my early twenties I had a few episodes of blacking out and the dizzy spells started back up again. Having been told it was a psychological problem, I assumed I was having panic attacks. I started going to the doctor again around age 22 and was treated for anxiety with various medications and counseling. The most important thing I learned in counseling is that I'm pretty well-adjusted and don't really have any mood problems. Every anxiety med or anti-depressant I was put on either had intolerable side effects at a low dose or made my spells worse, until we finally found one that didn't cause me discomfort: Wellbutrin. I was on this for a year before things got really bad. I was having the spells all the time now, and it was really interfering with my life. I discontinued the Wellbutrin on my own because I realized I was one of the happiest people I know and it didn't really add up to be on an anti-depressant. Also, if there was any chance that these spells (which I didn't connect to the spells I had in my teen years at the time) were a side effect of Wellbutrin, I needed to find if discontinuing the medication would stop them. Later I found out from my NEW doctor (who treats me a lot better) that Wellbutrin and many other depression/anxiety drugs lower the seizure threshold.

A year later we get to the point where I started regularly having spells that seemed more like complex partial seizures. After having family members video me I found out that I make a chewing motion with my mouth and flutter my eyelids while it's going on.

What I want to know is if it sounds like I may have had seizures in the past.

The reason I ask, is that I have other issues going on. If I'd had undiagnosed epilepsy this whole time, those problems would make a lot more sense and I would know that I don't really need to see another specialist to rule out a recent cause of epilepsy onset (like an autoimmune disorder, etc...). I would rather not waste time and money chasing down unnecessary testing. I know it's better safe than sorry, but I don't think I ever really had panic attacks or chronic fatigue syndrom or any other conversion disorder. I'm actually kind of surprised that I was written off as a hypochondriac and someone who needed to be referred to a psychiatrist instead of a neurologist.

I have found some studies on subjects who were diagnosed in error with panic attacks and other psychological problems when they really had epilepsy. Do you think this is the case for me? I mean, I am quite normal until I have a spell. What questions should I ask myself to put that in perspective?

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