The Different Types Of Seizures And How To Identify Them

Seizures always look similar in Hollywood productions, but in reality, there are different types of seizures. Seizures are now classified into 3 different categories, and the different names help us understand what's going on when someone experiences one.

Generally speaking, a seizure is an electrical disruption in the brain that is sudden and uncontrolled, according to the Mayo Clinic. It affects behavior, movement, feelings, and levels of consciousness. It often brings about confusion, unrestrained spasms of the limbs, loss of consciousness or awareness, a staring spell, and cognitive and emotional symptoms like fear, anxiety, or deja vu. Seizures typically last between 30 seconds and 2 minutes, but if they last longer than 5 minutes, it's considered a medical emergency. They can happen after a stroke, a head injury, or an infection like meningitis, but otherwise, the cause of a seizure is usually unknown. Medications are available for controlling them, but they can still have a significant impact on daily life. If you experience 2 or more seizures that are at least 24 hours apart and don't have a specific cause, this is considered epilepsy. Seizures can vary based on where in the brain they occur and how widespread they are.

The 3 major groups of seizures

In 2017, the International League Against Epilepsy classified seizures in 3 different ways (via theĀ Epilepsy Foundation). The first major group of seizures is called generalized onset seizures, which affect both sides of the brain at the same time. These can cause numerous symptoms, such as sustained rhythmic jerking movements, either weak and limp muscles or tense and rigid muscles, brief muscular twitches, or entire body spasms. They can also cause what's called "absence seizures," where you stare off into space and experience brief twitches of just one part of the body, like the eyelids.

The second major group of seizures is called focal onset seizures, which specify that the seizure begins in just one part or side of the brain. You can either be aware during the seizure, which is when you're awake, or have impaired awareness, meaning that you're confused or your consciousness is impeded in some way. Symptoms can be similar to generalized onset seizures, but can also include repeated automatic movements, like hand clapping or lip smacking, and changes to sensation or thinking, such as gastrointestinal sensations or goosebumps.

The last group is unknown onset seizures. This describes a seizure with an origin that is not known or happens when no one witnesses it, like during sleep. These types of seizures usually include behavior arrest, meaning that movement stops altogether.