Community Forum Archive

Is my friend faking

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 16:03
Hello everyone. I know this is a delicate subject but I really want to ask this question, get more information and help from this community. Please do not judge harshly my questioning. I wonder if my friend is faking her epilepsy and it’s been a while now. I’m not even the one who had this thought originally it was my sister. She thought it was weird that whenever my friend needed to be hospitalized she never ever wanted anyone to go with her and she would never show me (her best friend) any test results. She’s been sick ever since I met her (it’s been 15 years now). At first it was a gastric condition and that is still on going but epilepsy has “taken over” it seems. When it started I never questioned it, I always genuinely believe that she was sick. But after what my sister said I started questioning things. Not directly to her. Just wondering to myself. Although there was one occasion where I (gently) tried confronting her about one thing. I was a flight attendant until recently, and I was taught first aid, that includes what to do when someone has a seizure. One day my friend and I were discussing a seizure she had and she said her husband feared she might swallow her tongue so he reached into her mouth with his fingers. And she said “thank God he did that”. To which I responded, from my first aid knowledge, that you can’t swallow your tongue. She insisted that it was very common during a seizure to swallow your tongue. She insisted that it was her doctor who said that. So that’s the second thing that made me suspicious... Another event was her being in hospital for a while and this time, she wanted me to visit. Which I did. It’s a hospital known for mental issues so when she said the name of the hospital I thought it was really strange that she would be there. To which she responded that they have a small wing dedicated to neuro. When I get to the hospital, to the neuro wing, they say they don’t know who I’m looking for, she’s not in their database... I call my friend and she admits that she’s in the regular wing, which is psych. She’s on the floor of behavioral issues like suicidal, anorexic. She admitted lying because she didn’t like the idea of being there and she explained that the reason for her being there for about a month and a half is because her treatment for epilepsy was causing her to be extremely angry and aggressive and having severe mood swings. Of course this increased my suspicion that maybe it was fake. I can understand being ashamed of having to go to a mental institution but it just seemed strange for someone who has epilepsy. Going to Neuro would make total sense but not psych... I don’t know... During one visit, she also said the doctor was very rude to her in trying to make her have a seizure while doing an EEG, saying mean things to upset her on purpose so she’d have a seizure because he couldn’t believe she had epilepsy until he saw it on the EEG (her words). I responded that she does have other test results from other doctors that she probably brought with her. She was officially diagnosed. Why doesn’t he call the other doctor? She said “I don’t know, but he just won’t believe the other test results and he won’t call the doctor who diagnosed me”... Apparently he’s one of the best doctor in the field (in the country where I am). One other thing is when she has seizures sometimes she injures herself. It’s been I’d say about 2 years now that she was diagnosed with epilepsy and not once has anyone witnessed her falling AND hurting herself from a fall. I saw her have a seizure once, her husband and daughter have as well, many times of course, and other family members too, but nobody ever saw her fall to the point of injury, so what’s odd is on average she hurts herself a couple times a month (yes I’ve been keeping track) and nobody ever witnessed it. When she’s injured from a seizure she says she fell while walking outside or in her home, alone. The injuries never ever include swelling or bruises, EVER. Sometimes I just bump into something lightly and I get a bruise... her injuries are always the same and in the exact same location: forehead and chin. And they are scratches. Is it normal to fall on the face and not have a bruise or swelling? Some people may answer that she doesn’t get injuries when she’s with other people because they prevent her from falling. But that’s not the case. I know her family well and we discussed it. Sometimes they see her fall and they’re too far to catch her. Now, I must say that I have looked up epilepsy and signs and symptoms and researched about faking it as well, a lot... I never found anything about falling and having big scratches. I didn’t really find anything conclusive or helpful about the faking either but found info on seizures and that there are many different types. Apparently it’s possible to swallow the tongue but rare. The way my friend mentioned it though was like if it ever happened to her it would be absolutely normal... because it happens frequently... I really don’t know what to think. Today I heard that her neighbor (and friend) was talking in the hallway to another neighbor about “the lying”. They were talking about my friend and saying that she lies about going to the ER for epilepsy. So apparently I’m not the only one with doubts... I understand that everything I’m describing, or some of it, could be normal... but some of it just doesn’t make sense to me. Or maybe I’m not educated enough on the matter which is why I’m here asking for help to understand all this. Trust me, I wish this isn’t true but I can’t help but think maybe she is faking it. In the meantime I’m as supportive as I can be and I’m choosing to believe her. I guess I wanna know if I’m being crazy thinking this and if there really is ground for doubt. Thank you to everyone who will take the time to read me And thanks for those who will answer and help


This is a very good question

Submitted by birdman on Thu, 2020-02-20 - 22:24
This is a very good question and I'm sure someone from the Epilepsy Foundation will have links for you to get some answers.  I've heard it can be difficult to distinguish true epilepsy from psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) and other possible causes of "sickness".  Meanwhile I can tell you have done a lot of reading and research.  For my own research I read a book a few months ago that was very interesting and will address some of your concerns. Suzanne O'Sullivan wrote the book, Is It All In Your Head? I have to review it and read it again.  O'Sullivan gives various "true stories of imaginary illness".  Most of her cases are of patients incorrectly diagnosed with epileptic seizures.  She writes how hard it is for her as a doctor to address patients who have been given incorrect diagnosis.  And it is hard for these patients to deal with the truth of what is happening.  I cannot judge if your friend is faking her problem.  I've read some cases of seizures that have been hard to track.  Like you say it is a very sensitive subject and I think you would do well to read the book.  It may help you understand how to carefully help your friend.

Thanks a lot Michael! I will

Submitted by RoseFriendly on Fri, 2020-02-21 - 03:38
Thanks a lot Michael! I will get it. It seems really interesting ! 

Hi, Thank you so much for

Submitted by Anonymous on Fri, 2020-02-21 - 09:21
Hi, Thank you so much for posting, it sounds like you're a very supportive friend. We are glad to hear that you have been trained in seizure first aid and recognition! As you stated you cannot swallow your tongue during a seizure and it’s important to never force something into the mouth of someone having a seizure. It’s also important to note that not everyone who has a seizure has epilepsy. Michael offered some fantastic advice and suggestions in his comment and as he stated we cannot determine if your friend has epilepsy or is “faking” it, or not.There are many conditions or certain types of events that may look like or imitate epilepsy but are in fact not epilepsy. However, it is just as important for an individual who may be experiencing these symptoms or events to seek proper medical care with their healthcare team, who can confirm through testing what individual treatment plan may be needed. Some of these conditions include PNES, which may outwardly appear like epilepsy, but their cause is psychological and does not respond to antiseizure medication. To learn more about PNES and other conditions that can be mistaken for seizures and epilepsy, please visit:'s important that your friend continues to follow-up with her healthcare team, who can help her get the proper treatment she may need. It’s also important that you're taking care of yourself and your over well-being too. You or your friend may always contact our 24/7 Helpline, where trained information specialists are available to answer your questions, offer help, hope, support, guidance, and access to national and local resources. 1-800-332-1000, or   

I have a few questions:1)    

Submitted by egibbs2 on Fri, 2020-02-21 - 23:12
I have a few questions:1)     When she has a seizure, does she just fall down,as in an atonic seizure (drop attack)? Does she lose consciousness?2)     Does she go to a doctor? 3)     Has she talked about medication? Side effects?4)     Is she driving? (or maybe you have good public transportation) Her story about her hospital stay is very odd. To my knowledge,the main reason an epileptic would be admitted to the hospital is because their seizures are too frequent to be managed by a doctor on an outpatient basis.  Seizures twice a month isn’t that bad, especially if she has the support of a husband and friends to take her around to doctor’s appointments, pick up her medication, etc. It’s a matter of finding the right medication with minimal side effects. Once she is stabilized on a medication for long enough, she can be more independent. But if she is still having regular seizures requiring ER visits, it can be dangerous to be too independent. What if she falls and knocks herself unconscious? She definitely shouldn’t be driving. In the US it’s illegal to drive until you’ve gone 3 to 18 months seizure-free, depending on the state. I’m guessing she wasn’t admitted for uncontrolled seizures.It could be the only other reason I can think of: in-patient video-EEG. The EEG records brain waves while the person is recorded on camera, usually over several days. They DO try to make you have a seizure. When I did my first one, even though I wasn’t on any anti-seizure medication, I didn’t have a seizure. The second time, they took me off my meds and then sleep-deprived me. I was allowed only 4 hours of sleep two nights in a row, and the next evening I finally had one. I have never heard of someone being mean as a seizure trigger, but who knows? I saw the comments about PNES. Most patients with PNES don’t realize they have it. They often get injured, bruised. Many lose control of their bladder. It’s very difficult to diagnose. Epileptic seizures are even sometimes mistaken for PNES. Many epileptics ALSO have PNES. Based on the rest of your story, and if your friend only gets superficial scratches when no one is watching,I don’t think she has epilepsy. I don’t think she has PNES. I think she is faking it.  I know that I am jumping to a conclusion without all the information. I may be overly judgmental because epilepsy is controlling my life right now. Maybe she really thinks she has seizures. Putting my clouded judgment aside, whatever is going on with her, she does need help.

I realize that you posted

Submitted by Patriotrehab on Sun, 2020-03-08 - 18:13
I realize that you posted this more than a couple of weeks ago, but I just now saw your post. I’m a licensed clinical social worker and certified rehabilitation counselor as well as a person with epilepsy. I have experience treating people with epilepsy and also those with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) and other mental health disorders including factitious disorders. From a therapeutic perspective, I don’t ever tell my clients that I believe that they are “faking” even if I have solid reason to believe that. The reason is because it does nothing to change the behavior. Even those with PNES often have more control over their events than what they initially understand, which is why as many as half of them stop having events as soon as their diagnosis is confirmed and half of the remainder show improvement within the first three months of therapy. A previous comment that was made that is not true is that a lot of people with epilepsy also have PNES; whereas only a small number of people have both and this is a complicating factor. People who have PNES or factitious disorders are typically motivated by their unconscious to seek more care and attention and/or to act out unconscious anger. Sometimes malingering is involved for material gain or to avoid responsibility. But, as for you and your responsibility...self-care is what comes to mind. You obviously care for her, but feel betrayed and need to set some healthy boundaries with her. Your friend’s behavior is not going to change unless she learns how to be healthy through example. She obviously is wounded and seeking attention, but giving into her need for attention every time she is “sick” only reinforces her behavior. Perhaps you can be the friend who is available when she is “well”, reinforcing her “wellness”. 

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