What is a Seizure…

Okay, I guess in retrospect, this may seem like a silly question… particularly if you find yourself ending up here… I mean… very few people go hunting for information on something unless they have some clue what they are looking for…

But seriously… when Amandya had her first seizure, I was totally clueless.  I wish with all of my heart that I could than whoever turned her in to the guard at the school… either they recognized it for what it was, or they just were trying to help.  I was a lot like what I figure most people are when they think of a seizure… the stereotypical thrashing on the ground.  I took a class once that supposed to say what they were (it was decades ago… back when you were supposed to force a wallet for example between their teeth) and I realize that I really didn’t have much of a clue.

And… right now… I’m all about having a clue and about everyone having a clue.  I don’t kid myself that I will reach a TON of people with this… heck, I figure if I reach 10 people with it, I’m lucky… but if I reach ONE with it… if I help ONE person… that is one person who may be a little less scared and a little more informed…

This morning, the symptoms of seizures.  Didn’t write it… Not even going to edit it… but if I can reach even one person with information that helps… then maybe I have done my job…

So… the adventure begins…

This is information I got from epilepsy.com

A seizure is usually defined as a sudden alteration of behavior due to a temporary change in the electrical functioning of the brain, in particular the outside rim of the brain called the cortex. Below you will find some of the symptoms people with epilepsy may experience before, during and after a seizure. Seizures can take on many different forms and seizures affect different people in different ways. It is not implied that every person with seizures will experience every symptom described below.

Seizures have a beginning, middle, and end

When an individual is aware of the beginning, it may be thought of as a warning or aura. On the other hand, an individual may not be aware of the beginning and therefore have no warning.

Sometimes, the warning or aura is not followed by any other symptoms. It may be considered a simple partial seizure by the doctor.

The middle of the seizure may take several different forms. For people who have warnings, the aura may simply continue or it may turn into a complex partial seizure or a convulsion. For those who do not have a warning, the seizure may continue as a complex partial seizure or it may evolve into a convulsion.

The end to a seizure represents a transition from the seizure back to the individual’s normal state. This period is referred to as the “post-ictal period” (an ictus is a seizure) and signifies the recovery period for the brain. It may last from seconds to minutes to hours, depending on several factors including which part(s) of the brain were affected by the seizure and whether the individual was on anti-seizure medication. If a person has a complex partial seizure or a convulsion, their level of awareness gradually improves during the post-ictal period, much like a person waking up from anesthesia after an operation. There are other symptoms that occur during the post-ictal period and are detailed below.

Please note: Below is only a partial list, some people may experience other symptoms not listed below. These lists are meant to help patients communicate with their physicians.

Early seizure symptoms (warnings)


  • Deja vu
  • Jamais vu
  • Smell
  • Sound
  • Taste
  • Visual loss or blurring
  • Racing thoughts
  • Stomach feelings
  • Strange feelings
  • Tingling feeling


  • Fear/Panic
  • Pleasant feeling


  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Numbness

No warning:

  • Sometimes seizures come with no warning

Seizure symptoms


  • Black out
  • Confusion
  • Deafness/Sounds
  • Electric Shock Feeling
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Smell
  • Spacing out
  • Out of body experience
  • Visual loss or blurring


  • Fear/Panic


  • Chewing movements
  • Convulsion
  • Difficulty talking
  • Drooling
  • Eyelid fluttering
  • Eyes rolling up
  • Falling down
  • Foot stomping
  • Hand waving
  • Inability to move
  • Incontinence
  • Lip smacking
  • Making sounds
  • Shaking
  • Staring
  • Stiffening
  • Swallowing
  • Sweating
  • Teeth clenching/grinding
  • Tongue biting
  • Tremors
  • Twitching movements
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Heart racing

After-seizure symptoms (post-ictal)


  • Memory loss
  • Writing difficulty


  • Confusion
  • Depression and sadness
  • Fear
  • Frustration
  • Shame/Embarrassment


  • Bruising
  • Difficulty talking
  • Injuries
  • Sleeping
  • Exhaustion
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Thirst
  • Weakness
  • Urge to urinate/defecate

If you or someone you know has the symptoms listed above — you are not alone. Below are personal stories by people who have either experienced or witnessed seizure symptoms.

Adapated from: Schachter SC, editor. Brainstorms: epilepsy in our words. New York: Raven Press; 1993; and Schachter SC, editor.The brainstorms companion: epilepsy in our view. New York: Raven Press; 1995.

Topic Editor: Steven C. Schachter, M.D.
Last Reviewed:12/15/06


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