Questioning the role of abuse in behavioral spells and epilepsy

Danielle G. Koby, Ali Zirakzadeh, Jeffrey P. Staab, Richard Seime, Steven S. Cha, Cindy L. Nelson, Susan Sengem, Randy Berge, Eric A. Marshall, Jean E. Varner, Kristin S. Vickers, Max R. Trenerry, Gregory A. Worrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Past sexual trauma is frequently linked to the development of behavioral spells, present among 30% of patients admitted for video/EEG monitoring. Current attempts to verify and explore mechanisms in this reported association revealed that patients with epilepsy (n= 58) and those with behavioral spells (n= 38) did not differ in their self-report of past sexual trauma (among approximately 38% in each group). Ninety percent (90%) of men with behavioral spells endorsed past physical abuse, however, compared with 45% of men with epilepsy, and 40% of men with spells likely met current criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder. Among all patients, the presence of past physical, but not sexual, abuse positively predicted the diagnosis of spells rather than epilepsy. Current findings do not support a preponderance of sexual trauma in behavioral spells, yet within the subset of men with spells, greater exposure to physical abuse and current symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder may be important etiological and sustaining factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)584-590
Number of pages7
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Behavioral spells
  • Epilepsy
  • Nonepileptic seizures
  • Physical abuse
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Psychogenic nonepileptic seizures
  • Sexual abuse
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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