Breaking down the diagnosis of non-epileptic seizures by event presentation: Differences in MMPI-2 profiles, IQ, and suggestibility

Essie M Larson, Fordham University


Non-epileptic seizures (NES) are generally defined as physical or affective behavior changes which resemble epileptic seizures but are not accompanied by abnormal cortical activity. Currently, one of the major concerns of clinicians who diagnose and treat individuals with NES is the relatively homogeneous manner in which these individuals are clinically managed despite extensive clinical evidence of vast inter-individual heterogeneity. This heterogeneity has been primarily recognized in two realms: the behavioral presentations of NES and the psychological and etiological correlates of NES. The primary aim of the present research was to study the relationship of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2nd Edition (MMPI-2), suggestibility, IQ and years of education to two hypothesized subtypes of NES, those that mimic generalized seizures and those that mimic partial seizures. The current study included 88 participants in 4 groups: Subtype I NES, Subtype II NES, organic generalized epilepsy group, and organic partial epilepsy group. The results indicated no significant differences between the two subtypes on any of the variables or MMPI-2 scales. However, the results did show a noticeable difference between the MMPI-2 profiles of the two NES subtypes when compared to the organic generalized epilepsy and organic partial epilepsy groups. Overall, the NES groups showed a pattern consistent with symptoms of conversion while the organic epilepsy groups did not. Furthermore, significant differences were found on the MMPI-2 suggesting greater levels of depression and social isolation in organic epilepsy groups as compared to NES groups. These results are discussed within the context of la belle indifference, and how this concept may provide a link between conversion symptoms and NES. Finally, using logistic regression a subset of 9 items from the MMPI-2 was identified as a possible NES scale. While it adequately differentiated the NES groups from the organic epilepsy groups, further cross validation studies with additional NES samples are necessary to further refine the scale.

Subject Area

Psychobiology|Physiological psychology|Psychotherapy|Psychological tests

Recommended Citation

Larson, Essie M, "Breaking down the diagnosis of non-epileptic seizures by event presentation: Differences in MMPI-2 profiles, IQ, and suggestibility" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3182455.