Epileptic Seizures versus Psychological/Dissociative Seizures?

Hi All, 

I'm very confused and upset about my situation.  I had my first "episode" in early 2003.  My husband I were under a lot of stress.  We had moved to another city and had two houses on the market...our own and a rental property.  It was a Saturday morning.  I was recovering from a cold, and had been awake for about an hour and had eaten breakfast.  My husband was on the phone with the realtor and I was listening to the conversation.  I was standing at the kitchen counter, and I recall feeling stressed.  The next feeling I feel is a sensation like I'm being pulled into a dream...a recurring dream that was not pleasant...a heavy presence of evil.  The last thing I remember saying out loud is, "I need to lie down." Then blackness...a feeling of falling asleep.  I do not remember making it to the couch, but evidently I did, because the next thing I know I wake up lying almost face-down on the couch, my husband calling my name and shaking me.  He is very upset, ready to call 9-11.  He said he heard me cry out.  He ran into the room to find me on the couch with my eyes open.  He was afraid I was dead.  I remember feeling tired and out of it for several days.  There was a dimness to my vision, and a sense of reality not being quite right.  I chalked it up to stress or maybe low blood sugar (even though I had eaten breakfast) and the fact that I had been sick.  I refused to go to the doctor.  

After that I did continue to have occasional auras...like I was remembering a recurring dream/nightmare.   These pass within five to ten seconds, and then I cannot remember exactly what I saw during the auras...just the feeling of intense fear.  I know there is a very strong sense of de ja vu during these episodes which after much research I realize can be a a part of an aura and/or an impending seizure.

Fast foward a few years...I think it was 2005 or 2006.  I don't remember exactly what was going on in my life when I had the second black-out episode, but my husband believes we were under some stress.  We were visiting my parents, and I was sitting on their couch...again shortly after waking up and having breakfast.  We were watching TV when suddenly l have the dream-like-recurring dream/de ja vu-evil presence sensation. The next thing I know my dad is standing over me shaking me and calling my name.  I was lying semi-recumbent on the couch when this happened, so I didn't fall over, but according to him my eyes rolled back into my head, and one of my arms jerked a bit.  He said it was not full-blown grand mal type of movements, but they knew something was definitely wrong.

I was so shaken up that it had happened again that I did decide to see a neurologist.  I underwent several tests including a MRI, EEG, echocardiogram, carotid ultrasound--all negative.  The doctor did not totally rule out a seizure disorder, but he couldn't rule it in either.  He felt given my symptoms and the circumstances surrounding both episodes that it might be a psychological/dissociative type of episode...to put it in simpler words...my brain just sometimes need to "reset" itself when I'm going through stress or high emotion.  He said that if it was a seizure disorder that my seizure threshold must be pretty high as my seizures are years apart.  He felt that the side effects of treating palliatively with seizure medication would outweigh any gain, although he did give me that option.  I elected no medication, and I did not visit a psychologist.  I will note that I am an anxious person, and was briefly on anxiety medicaiton in the past, but the side-effects were awful, and I did discontinue it (weaned off it with doctor supervision).  I've not been on any anxiety meds since.

Fortunately, I did not have another black-out episode for 5-6 years.  I do occasionally have the auras, but they generally only happen over a few days...maybe once a year in the late Fall-Winter-early Spring.  Never during warm and sunny months.

Well, this past week I lost a close friend to cancer.  I had a particularly bad bout of seasonal allergies on top of that, and was on daily antihistamines last week.  On Friday afternoon I took an old-fashioned Sudafed (I only resort to it when I have to because decongestants make me feel spacy) because I was so congested and had a throbbing headache.  I had also noted late last week I started having auras, but they were mild.  I told my husband on Friday that I was having them.  I usually will tell him when I'm having them so he can keep an eye on me.  I always elect not to drive when I'm feeling them.

We stayed in a hotel overnight on Friday to attend the funeral of the friend on Saturday.  I was appropriately sad, but I do believe the grief hit me harder than I imagined it would.  I remember having troubling dreams on Friday night, and after going to bathroom at 3:00 a.m. I remember lying down and having a strong aura...along with a hot, weird feeling in my right arm.  Once it passed though I immediately fell asleep.  I woke up Saturday morning feeling fairly well rested, took a shower, and told my husband I would go down to the lobby and eat breakfast while he got ready.

I ate breakfast, and was sitting at the breakfast table when a strong aura hit me again.  I rode it out, and I felt like it had passed.  I decided to sit there a few more minutes to relax and regain my bearings when the next thing I know I'm surrounded by people, and I'm being helped up off the floor.  I wear glasses, and evidently I had fallen out of the chair, and my glasses had cut me under my eye.  I do not remember falling...just being picked up.  According to witnesses I slowly fell out of my chair.  One lady said, "Wow, you sure do pass out gracefully."  That makes me wonder if I was trying to lie down on the floor consciously when I blacked out only to hit the left side of my face on the floor.  A nice hotel employee helped me back to my room.

I felt totally exhausted the rest of the day although I had a funeral to attend so I had to keep going.  I had a hard time going to sleep on Saturday night but eventually did.  I woke up Sunday feeling very unrested and out of it, but was able to do what I needed to do in order to pack up and travel back home.  I did sleep very well last night, but even today I feel out of it-a slightly altered sense of reality, and there is a dimness to my vision.

A very long narrative to say that I am so confused as to whether I should see a neurologist again or should just chalk this up to an "emotional event".  My husband feels that my episodes have a deep emotional component, but he is concerned also.  I just wish I knew if these are true seizures or  psychological one.  The facts point toward an emotional component, but they sure do act and feel like real seizures.


--Seizures/blackouts have always happened within an hour or two after I wake in the morning--auras can occur any time during the day including during or surrounding sleep.

--Seizures/blackouts are always preceded by de ja vu-recurring dream auras.

--Two blackouts have happened after I've had colds and have been on antihistamines and/or decongestants.

--Auras and seizures happen only in the late Fall-Winter-early spring.

--Usually happen when I'm under some sort of emotional stress.

I've written this mostly as a narrative of what's going on with me, but I would love any feedback anyone can give me on my experiences.   While these episodes are not new...they are so rare that they are very upsetting when they happen.

Thank you!