Symptoms and Types of Seizures


Having two or more unprovoked seizures at least 24 hours apart is generally considered to be epilepsy. Symptoms of epileptic seizures may vary, but in most cases, the same type tends to occur each time.

These may include:

  • Staring spell, or “blanking out”
  • Temporary confusion or disorientation
  • Uncontrollable jerking movements of arms and legs
  • Loss of consciousness/awareness
  • Psychic symptoms (e.g. fear, anxiety, deja vu)

Fainted girl after an epilepsy attack helped by an old woman – Teenager trying to get back on her feet while receiving support from an elder

Types of Seizures

Focal seizures (involves one area of the brain)

    • with no loss of consciousness – altered emotions or sensations; spontaneous sensory symptoms including tingling, dizziness, and flashing lights; involuntary jerking of a body.
    • with impaired awareness – blanked stares; change in awareness; repetitive movements.

Generalized seizures (involves all areas of the brain)

  • Absence seizures (petit mal) – often occur in children and are characterized by brief periods of staring spells and/or subtle body movements.
  • Tonic seizures – stiffening of the back, arm, and leg muscles, resulting in falls.
    • Atonic seizures – loss of muscle control, resulting in sudden collapse.
    • Clonic seizures – repeated, rhythmic jerking muscle movements that often affect the neck, face, and arms.
    • Myoclonic seizures – sudden, brief jerks/twitches of the arms and legs.
    • Tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal) – an abrupt loss of consciousness, body stiffening and shaking, tongue-biting, and loss of bladder/bowel control.

Causes and Risk Factors


  • Genetic influence
  • Head trauma
  • Brain conditions
  • Infectious diseases
  • Prenatal injury
  • Developmental disorders

In half of the population with epilepsy, there is no identifiable cause.


Risk Factors

  • Age
  • Family history of epilepsy
  • Head injuries
  • Brain infections
  • Stroke and other vascular diseases
  • Dementia
  • Seizures in childhood